Sleepy John Estes review…April 30, 2014…

SLEEPY JOHN ESTES

LIVE IN JAPAN WITH HAMMIE NIXON

DELMARK RECORDS DE 835

CORRINA CORRINA–BROKE AND HUNGRY–YOU SHOULDN’T SAY THAT–TIN PAN ALLEY–HOLY SPIRIT DON’T YOU LEAVE ME–I’LL BE GLAD WHEN YOU’RE DEAD YOU RASCAL YOU—STOP THAT THING–THE GIRL I LOVE, SHE GOT LONG CURLY HAIR–DIVIN’ DUCK BLUES–WHEN YOUR MOTHER IS GONE–WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN–INTRODUCTION–MARY COME ON HOME–RATS IN MY KITCHEN–POTATO DIGGING MAN–FOX CHASE–SLEEPY JOHN’S TWIST–WELCOME–LOVE GROWS IN YOUR HEART–BROWNSVILLE BLUES–JESUS ON THE MAIN LINE

 

Bob Koester and the good folks at Delmark Records have once again brought to U.S. audiences a long-lost classic, and what a special recording it is.  “Sleepy John Estes Live In Japan With Hammie Nixon” documents twenty-one cuts that these two blues giants recorded on a couple of trips to Japan in 1974 and 1976.  These shows were originally only released on LP in Japan, but now they see a world-wide distribution.

Sleepy John Estes was born in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1899.  His pleading, country-blues vocal style and songs such as “Diving Duck Blues”, “Broke and Hungry,” and “Stop That Thing” which would become blues standards, led to Estes being referred to as “The Poet Of The Blues.”  His perfect foil was heart man and highly-underrated vocalist, Hammie Nixon.  Nixon’s harp playing was always exactly what was needed, never overstepping or getting in the way of John’s vocals.

We shall addressed the cuts involved in each individual show for the remainder of this review.  The first eleven cuts were recorded on November 27 and 28 in Tokyo at the Yubin  Chokin Hall in 1974.  The show starts with a spirited duet between both singers on “Corrina Corrina” with Hammie on kazoo!  “Broke And Hungry” follows John’s deep-rooted country blues patters, and they duet again on a spirited “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You,” showcasing Hammie’s more gruff focal delivery, which is in contrast to John’s more traditional style.

Our favorite from this first set, tho, was the woefully-short gospel tune, “Holy Spirit, Don’t You Leave Me, ” which was always a staple in their shows.

The next five cuts were from Tokyo also on December 16, 1976, at the Nippon Seinenkan Hall, and features Hamme on the lead vocal on “Potato Diggin’Man,” and a fine slow blues take on “Rats In My Kitchen.”  They close the show with the crowd clapping along to the uptempo “Sleep John’s Twist.”

The third set was Christmas Eve, 1976, from Kyoto’s Circus Circus Club, with the Japanese backing band Yu Ka Dan.  These cuts yield the excellent “Brownsville Blues”, and, another of our favorites, “Jesus On The Mainline.”

Simply put, “Mr. Sleepy” and “Mr. Hammie” were adored by the Japanese audiences, and the crowds at the venues show their appreciation throughout.  Their unique approach to the raw power of the traditional country blues makes “Live In Japan” one that blues fans should not miss!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

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