Peter Case is back with Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John, his most raw, direct work in nearly a decade. This album of politically fueled songs finds America's golden troubadour in his finest form, laying down sparse, busker-style guitar work over his uniquely delivered dusty road-poetry. Now Let Us Praise Sleepy John is yet another volume in the career of one of the most storied singer/songwriters of his generation. Standard Jewel Case.
Since his street-corner-playing days in Buffalo and on through nearly 30 years of making music, Peter Case always seemed to find time for a cover of Sleepy John Estes. Case's first album since 2002's Beeline
actually goes one better, interpreting the legendary wailing blues master by stripping away adjunct instruments and pining for the carefree busking days where all that mattered were a guitar and a song to sing. And in this setting, not many can write them or sing them like Case. There are flat-picking observations on "two kinds of justice" in "Million Dollar Bail," recollections of Telly Savalas in the small-town predicaments of "Palookaville," and duets with both buddies (Carlos Guitarlos on "Underneath the Stars") and heroes (Richard Thompson on "Every 24 Hours"). There are no Estes covers, but acclimating Robert Wilkins's 80-year-old "Get Away Blues" is expressively close, as every pluck of the 12-string and lyrical tug from deep inside Case's gut does justice to the late Sleepy John. --Scott Holter