Sleepy John Estes wasn't a great singer, and he was a barely passable guitarist, and yet he managed to sustain an intermittent career in the blues for over 50 years. He was able to do that because he was an amazingly subtle songwriter, with a clear grasp of characterization, location, and metaphor, traits not usually associated with the country blues. 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 Catfish Records include a bit of domestic advice ("Better Clean Up at Home"), 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