Mance Lipscomb/ Clifton Chenier/ Lightnin' Hopkins
The greatest legacy of the Sixties folk boom was the rediscovery of old blues legends and their return to the stage. Some were already famous, like Son House. Mance Lipscomb had never been heard outside Texas. His style was direct and his repertoire immense: a million songs and nearly that many stories. Mance was 70 when he started touring; he fretted about his voice but you won't. Every tune has strength and charm.
The Cabale was a club in Berkeley. The crowd is small and listens in rapt silence. Mance bangs the low strings for rhythm and lays boogie riffs on top. The voice is deep, moaning calmly like a warmer version of Lightnin' Hopkins, who we hear later. His blues are sunny, smiling even through "Trouble in Mind." The hymns are urgent and get his best guitar; there's a sweet bottleneck on "The Saints." Most tunes are familiar but not how he does them. A long, lanky "Ain't Got Nobody," is his standout at this Blues Festival. He feeds off the crowd, knocks the guitar body, and keeps joking about loosing his dogs. His songs are friendly, but they have bite.
As for the rest of the show, one sound is familiar, the other a thrilling surprise. Lightnin' is relaxed, flashing big echoes and creeping with little notes. His sound is truly electric, and not bored like he can be sometimes. The crowd gets shakin' on "Feel So Good," catches fire on "Mojo Hand" and the stage is set for Clifton Chenier. He apologizes for not having his band, just his squeezebox and a drummer. Then he blares out "Scratch My Back," with bass, organ and harp all wrapped in one. Space was cleared for dancing; you hear 'em move as they give him the most applause. The fervor is great on "What'd I Say." For "Clifton's Boogie" they simply explode. You don't hear that sound, you feel it. Same with all these performances: in the right hands and played with the right spirits, the blues is the best feeling to have. - John Barrett
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