FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Sleepy John Estes|
|James 'Yank' Rachel|
Sleepy John Estes Vol 1 24th September 1929 to 2nd August 1937
Sleepy John Estes, vocal, guitar.
Includes: Johnny Hardge, piano; James Yank Rachel, mandolin; Jab Jones, piano, Tee harmonica; Hammie Nixon, harmonica.
Country Blues / Early Chicago Blues.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
John Norris of Jazz Beat Magazine once wrote of Sleepy John Estes .The emotional impact of his singing is overwhelming and when he really gets wound up in his music he sings with great power. Sleepy John Estes was in many ways the personification of the blues. His pleading vocals were always on the point disintegrating into a cry either of help or of joy. His guitar playing, which could either be used as a thumping rhythm or as a remarkable, strong and precise lead, were a direct line to the life of poverty that he lived and his experiences in the Brownsville, Tennessee where he was born and where he died. This is the first of two volumes covering Sleepy John Estes early and, arguably, his best recordings, which he made between 1929 and 1941 before he slipped into obscurity until being re-discovered during the great blues revival of the 1960s.
These recordings show John as an innovator and like Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee) and Big Bill Broonzy he was willing and able to move on with the times, bringing his music from the country and into the city (Chicago). Like Big Joe, Sleepy John was as comfortable playing with a band as he was playing solo. The recordings on Volume One have the feel of a string band with the ever present James Yank Rachel on mandolin. Also present on several tracks are Jab Jones playing stomping barrelhouse. piano and Hammie Nixon on harmonica. Elsewhere harmonica is provided by the mysterious Tee.
The total sound of these early sides is extraordinary. When Estes and his band hit an up-tempo piece, as on Cow Cow Blues or Watcha Doin?, the effect is both precarious and thrilling at the same time. In among the slow blues such as autobiographical Street Car Blues and Poor John Blues are the stomping Stop That Thing and I Want To Tear It Down. The success of another up-beat number, Drop Down Mamma lead to its re-issue by public demand on 78 in Britain during the 1940s. This is low down blues and good time music at their best.