Sleepy John Estes wasn't the world's greatest guitar player, and his singing probably never won any awards, but he was unique among early country blues players because of his ability to fashion his own songs around the people and everyday events of his hometown of Brownsville, TN, a trait that makes his body of work feel a little bit like a blues version of Spoon River Anthology. This fine single-disc collection of his early 78s has several examples of Estes' deceptive skill, including the blues classic "Diving Duck Blues," which sports the immortal lines "If the river was whiskey/And I was a diving duck/I'd dive to the bottom/And I never would come up," lines that have since shown up in countless other blues songs. Other gems on this anthology from Indigo Records include some self-analysis ("I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More"), and even a study in pop dynamics ("Time Is Drawing Near"). The deceptively simple "Brownsville Blues" equates a stalled car with a stalled life, while the haunting "Floating Bridge" is a magnificent bit of cautionary autobiography, complete with a metaphoric (and almost literal) death and resurrection. Time after time one finds that these songs, which appear so simple and calm on the surface, reveal surprising depth and unexpected lyrical turns when closely examined. There is simply no one else in country blues quite like Estes.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett