Sleepy John Estes – I Ain’t Gonna Be Worried No More 1929-1941
This collection spans the pre-war period during which Sleepy John recorded. It’s one of many collections that do so, and honestly, I’m not precious about which collection or which label you opt to go with, because literally every single thing Sleepy John Estes ever did was absolutely brilliant.
He is the greatest country blues poet of them all—an unparalleled storyteller of such plaintive immediacy, with an unerring eye for detail, and a natural dramatist; he is as authentic and as real as can possibly be wished for or imagined. He is a poet of place, as evocative a chronicler of his world as was Faulkner of his.
Add to his uncanny narrative abilities a voice virtually built to break your heart, and you have one of the most compelling artists this music has ever produced. That he unfailingly found himself accompanied by so many sympathetic and graceful musicians simply extends the scope of his musical accomplishment—Hammie Nixon is by far and away one of my most favorite country blues harmonica players, and Yank Rachel so commandingly owns the idea of country blues mandolin that other words must be invented to describe other’s playing.
Sleepy John Estates is one of the gods.
from Lawyer Clark Blues
Now, Mister Clark is a good lawyer, he good as I ever seen
He’s the first man that prove that water run upstream
Boys, you know I like Mister Clark, yes, he really is my friend
He say if I just stay out the grave, poor John, I see you won’t go to the pen
from Fire Department Blues (Martha Hardin)
She’s a hard-workin’ woman, you know her salary is very small
Then when she pay up her house rent, that don’t leave anything for insurance at all
Now, I wrote little Martha a letter, five days it returned back to me
You know little Martha’s house done burnt down, she done move over on Bradford Street
from Floating Bridge
Well I never will forget that floating bridge
They tell me five minutes time underwater I was hid
Now, when I was going down, I throwed up my hands
Please, take me on dry land
They dropped me off, and they laid me in the bed
I couldn’t hear nothing but muddy water running ’round my head
from Mailman Blues
Reason I ain’t been gettin’ no mail, you know, I done found out what it’s all about
You know the mailman been gettin’ drunk, he been leavin’ my mail at somebody
Now, I been waitin’ on the mailman, he usually come along about 11 o’clock
Now, I guess he musta had car trouble, or either the road must be blocked
Mailman, please don’t you lose your head
You know, I’m lookin’ for a letter from my babe, some of my people might be dead