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Author Topic: Sleepy John - Pete Welding recordings  (Read 1741 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Sleepy John - Pete Welding recordings
« on: November 12, 2005, 04:42:06 AM »
John M?s ongoing Sleepy John transcriptions has got me playing long forgotten LPs, EPs and even CDs. One of these is a 1998 Testament CD of hitherto unknown Pete Welding recordings from 1962.? I was going to post here waxing lyrical about this compilation when I chanced upon a review of in? Blues & Rhythm 129 (May 1998). This says it better than I could. Don?t know if this CD is still available though - the interview is delighful, portions of which once appeared in a 1963 Down Beat special....but nothing beats hearing the man himself!

SLEEPY JOHN ESTES
Goin' To Brownsville
Testament TCD 6008
Run Around/ Lost My Eyesight It Was A Dream/ Try Him And See/ Divin' Duck/ Street Car Blues/ Sloppy Drunk Blues/ I'm Goin' Home/ Floating Bridge/ Sixty-One And Sixty-Two Rats/ Vernita's Blues/ Someday Baby/ Freedom Loan/ Bye And Bye When The Morning Comes/ Workin,, Man's Blues/ Bring Me My .38 Pistol/ Married Woman Blues/ Sweet Sugar Mama/ Stop That Thing/ In My Father's House/ Goin' To Brownsville/ Interview by Pete Welding (73:28)

That Pete Welding, eh? Careful with the handshake, 'cos he had to be strong to tote his tape recorder around so much during the sixties and on public transport, too. Not only that, he achieved an astonishingly high quality of performance from those he recorded and with thirty-plus CDs of a consistently high standard already on Testament, here's a previously unissued set by Sleepy John. Not only that but it was recorded in April 1962, less than a month after Estes had cut his first comeback session for Bob Koester.

Three and a half decades later it will be hard for younger readers to appreciate the widespread shock and surprise when it was announced Sleepy John Estes was not dead, as Big Bill had surmised in his autobiography, but alive and at 63 still able not only to reproduce his many memorable songs from the thirties but still writing first class blues with vivid and stirring imagery. 'Lost My Eyesight' and 'Sixty-One And Sixty-Two Rats' here are better known as 'l Was Well Warned' and 'Rats In My Kitchen', probably the best of his later work. Unknown to us at the time, he'd already recorded the former as 'Stone Blind Blues' for Ora Nelle in 1948 and 'Rats' for Sam Phillips in 1952. Reviewing the CD release of Estes' first Delmark album in 1991 (B&R 59), Paul Oliver wrote 'I still cannot listen to these recordings without feeling cold chills'. That will probably hold true for Paul with this set.

These are solo recordings and it must be said that Hammie Nixon is not missed, although his presence would not have been unwelcome. As has been noted before, Estes' guitar playing was sufficient to his needs; most of his songs are taken at a medium loping pace ideally suited to the strumming with which he kept approximate time. Several times he surprises the listener (and possibly himself) with a fleeting gift of virtuosity but this is merely relative. Similarly, his vocals are often delivered in a half-mumbled tone delivered with his chin on his chest and made even more impenetrable by his broad country accent. None of this matters for the fact is Sleepy John Estes is the real thing, without pretence or showmanship, a man who mostly sang about his immediate world and the people in it. The sum of his achievements is infinitely superior to their constituent parts and the listener is gratefully mesmerised.

With the exceptions already noted, his repertoire here revisits earlier successes. 'I'm Goin' Home' is 'When I Lay My Burden Down' and 'Bye And Bye' is a delightful fragment with John allowing his guitar to finish his vocal lines. Several tracks end with a satisfied chuckle. Choosing highlights is invidious but 'Eyesight', 'Fioating Bridge', 'Freedom Loan' and '.38 Pistol' can be received with relish. The 18-minute interview shows how Pete Welding's persistence eventually bore fruit, as John tells how Jim Jackson helped him get his first Victor session, how he met Big Bill in Chicago (he scotches Bill's claim that they served on a work gang together), the accident that led to 'Floating Bridge' and how Lee Brown may have helped to blind him in his left eye after he'd lost the right at the age of 18. Fascinating and historic stuff.? ? Neil Slaven

Offline Stuart

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Re: Sleepy John - Pete Welding recordings
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2005, 09:55:50 AM »
It is available as Testament recordings appear to be released under the Hightone label:

Goin' to Brownsville
« Last Edit: November 12, 2005, 02:38:36 PM by Slack »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sleepy John - Pete Welding recordings
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2005, 02:37:29 PM »
Like JohnM mentioned in the Sleepy John thread, I too am sorely lacking in rediscovery era recordings of Estes, having none in my possession. I'll have to remedy that. There are a couple on Delmark as well with Hammie Nixon and Yank Rachell I believe. But I'm very curious to hear these solo recordings, since we hear so little of that from him in the prewar era.

 


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