In 2001, Peter Case produced an all-star tribute album honoring the music of Mississippi John Hurt, Avalon Blues, so with a title like Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John, it's not hard to imagine he's chosen to pay homage to another great country blues artist, Sleepy John Estes. As it happens, the album features ten new songs from Case (along with one traditional blues tune, "Get Away Blues"), and the album's blues influences are generally more a matter of approach and attitude rather than the adoption of any strict musical templates, but Case does follow the "less is more" approach of classic blues. Most of the songs feature just Case and his acoustic guitar, and the lyrics often dwell on bad luck and trouble as they manifest themselves in the modern world, from the multi-millionaire jailbird in "Million Dollars Bail" and the knocked-down street people of "Underneath the Stars" to the washed-up boxer of "Palookaville" and the big city malaise of "Ain't Gonna Worry No More" (which concludes with the spectral appearance of Lightnin' Hopkins at a local saloon). Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John suggests the lean musical structures of Case's 1998 album Full Service No Waiting fused with the storytelling sense of 1989's The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditional Guitar, and the result is one of Case's most satisfying albums in years; as a lyricist, Case hits his targets dead on with these songs, and musically the Spartan arrangements favor the sturdy beauty of his melodies, and when he does bring in an accompanist -- Richard Thompson on "Every 24 Hours," Duane Jarvis on "I'm Gonna Change My Ways," Carlos Guitarlos on "Underneath the Stars" -- he makes their presence count. And if Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John is dominated by the realities of life on the streets in Big City U.S.A., Case also finds some genuine inspiration in the ineffable mysteries of life, and "Every 24 Hours" and "That Soul Twist" bookend this album with an unpretentious beauty and a simple joy in world that changes with every sunrise; this is a splendid album from a truly gifted artist.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming