Monday, November 05, 2007

Sleepy John's Electric Chicago Blues

Sleepy John Estes was one of the great blues poets and vocalists whose prewar recordings were highly influential on the likes of John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson and others. A creative lyricist who often spun songs from his own experiences, his crying vocals (and rudimentary guitar playing) backed by the vocalised harmonica of Hammie Nixon and the mandolin of Yank Rachell produced numerous classic songs that became part of the blues repertoire, such Diving Duck Blues, Drop Down Mama, and Everybody Oughta Make a Change. Rediscovered in the sixties, Estes had a revived career recording and performing world wide, producing several excellent albums for Delmark. Delmark’s reissue, On the Chicago Blues Scene, makes available for the first time on CD an album originally released as Electric Sleep, a play on the psychedelic recordings of Muddy and Howling Wolf, although this was simply presenting Estes in a Chicago blues setting with a backing band that included Sunnyland Slim on piano, Jimmy Dawkins on guitar, Carey Bell on harp, Odie Payne on drums and various bassist including Earl Hooker. Koester recalls seeing Estes participate in a jam in Europe with Hubert Sumlin, Rice ‘Sonny Boy Williamson’ Miller, Sunnyland Slim and others and able to sing with such modernists and a few years later cut an album in that vein and with the sympathetic backing by a band that does a fine job in backing Estes who could sometimes not be easy to follow. The vocals are marvelous as can be expected and its a joy to hear familiar Estes songs take on a fresh sound and here the music played with such joy and soulfulness. Recommended.

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