Here’s a music documentary that’s free of talking heads droning on about how groundbreaking and influential the subject is. Instead, the focus is on the rural Texas environment that birthed the music of legendary bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins. His explanations of the blues are brief, letting the music and images do the rest of the talking.
Like that of many other blues players, Lightnin’ Hopkins’s music was the product of dire rural living conditions, serving functions that were very much social and personal rather than commercial. Les Blank explains, “Listening to the blues being performed by those who had truly lived the blues provided an escape from my problems and also gave me a strong sense of connection to pain and suffering, even though I had not been born into a world beleaguered for generations by racism, poverty, and gross justice.” We see Lightnin’ Hopkins playing his music wherever he can, because he can: on a farm, at a barbecue, in a living room while a friend blows some harp and screams along. The resources are limited, but the spirits are kept up. One gets a sense that the people onscreen are truly making the most of their situations, even if it means having to endure poverty and the oppressive Southern heat.