SLEEPY JOHN ESTES On 80 Highway Delmark DE 797
One of the originals in blues was John Adam Estes, a fine songwriter, a unique singer and a decent, basic guitarist. His career covered many decades, first as a Black recording artist in the 20s – 40s with an African American audience (ending with Sun Records!), then as a “folk” artist with a White audience after his “rediscovery”. Recorded in 1974, this previously unreleased collection has John and side-kick Hammie Nixon in full bore recorded just before their first trip to Japan (!), the second Black blues performers to go there after B.B. King. John even ended up with a record on Japanese Top 100 charts as a result of that tour!! Imagine that.
While his voice is an acquired taste for some, his plaintive singing of his own songs is mesmerizing, while Nixon’s harmonica weaves in and out of John’s vocals. These two knew each other intimately musically over the decades and it shows here in the way that Hammie shadows Estes’ singing and then solos. His harp (and kazoo) is a VERY important part of the whole, plus he takes the vocal on “Potatoe(sic) Diggin’ Man”, and the lead on the spirituals “Holy Spirit” and “Do, Lord, Remember Me”… plus he does short medicine show cross-fires with John! While Estes name is on top, it’s truly a duo effort. Good variety in repertoire; not sure why Koester left the session in the can, but we can now enjoy it on this CD. Good stuff.
PETER B. LOWRY
pub: THE BLUES TIMES; #201 – Dec, ’09; p. 9/10.