Lightning in a bottle.
Donna Hopkins – Vocals, Guitars
Brian Ashley Jones – Bass Guitar, Mandolin
Richie Jones – Drums
If you're familiar with the Donna Hopkins Band through live performances or her 2003 debut CD, Free to Go, then you already know she's worthy of attention. Otherwise, her Dynasonic CD release Live is a fine introduction. Hopkins is legit: She's Alabama-bred, farm-raised in hard times. Her mom performed in rock bands in mini-skirts and go-go boots. Her grandfather's music was a tremendous inspiration. Now in her early 40s, Hopkins has matured into a genuine triple threat as songwriter, singer and guitarist. As a songwriter (she wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks), Hopkins seasons swampy, Gulf Coast funkiness with angular voicings of extended and suspended chords. Listen for examples on "In Spite of Yourself" or "Don't Ask Why." It's classic tension-and-release with a groove, and with lyrics revealing mileage, honesty and soul. It's survival music you can dance to. The grooves come courtesy of bassist Brian Ashley Jones and drummer Richie Jones, who are in the pocket throughout and who also add convincing harmony and backing vocals. As a singer, Hopkins has a big, distinctive voice that effectively communicates varied emotions. The acoustic "Everything Money Can Buy," for example, puts you on the front porch on a summer evening, right about dinnertime. As a guitarist, Hopkins can be at turns raw and articulate. She's her own woman, but think equal parts John Lee Hooker and Billy Gibbons, with a dash of Jimmie Vaughan and Robin Trower circa Bridge of Sighs. The bottom line: Live sounds great, thanks to Dynasonic Mobile, and is a well-focused snapshot of an artist who has plenty of talent and the courage to be herself.