Sleepy John Estes, Sleepy John Estes Vol. 2 (1937 – 1941)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Need more blues? This Tennessee-born guitarist just might be your man.

Sleepy John Estes 'high, emotional voice cuts through guitar playing that, while nothing special, is insistent enough to get the job done. Recognizing his limitations, he usually filled out his sound with mandolinist Yank Rachell and harmonicist Hammie Nixon.) But it's his songs that make Estes so compelling. Rather than stringing together couplets from a common pool that all bluesmen dipped into, Estes often composed his own songs — which paint a vivid picture of his time and place. "Lawyer Clark Blues," "Fire Department Blues (Martha Hardin)" and "Little Laura Blues" are about real people in his Brownsville, Tennessee, hometown. "Special Agent (Railroad Police Blues)" describes his attempts to hop a freight to make a recording session. And "Floating Bridge," the harrowing tale of his near-drowning, is one of the most evocative pieces in all of blues.