Roasted mushroom and olive pizza with a mashed potato crust
Sleepy John Estes had a “…tendency to withdraw from his surroundings into drowsiness whenever life was too cruel or too boring to warrant full attention,” according to blues historian Bob Koester. In a strange way, when I read this I thought, “I know what that feels like!” I’ve always gotten very tired when I feel nervous or confused, and I sometimes I think I feel tired all the time because I don’t sleep very well…I’m half-awake all night and half-asleep all day. I wonder if Sleepy John Estes felt that way, too, because he sings, “You know I worried last night and all night before/ You know by that I won’t be worried no more
/ I was worried for you, I was worried for me/ You know by that I’m gon’ let it be.” It’s a beautiful song with a kazoo
, and I love to hear him say that he’s not going to worry any more, but we all know that’s easier said than done. There’s something about Sleepy John Estes songs that makes them easy to relate to, that makes them very powerful though they’re often quite simple. He talks about his life, he talks about the people he meets, and the events that effect him from day to day, and though the subject is quotidian, his language is resonant and the music is perfect. He’s another patron saint of The Ordinary.
By R. Crumb
He talks about waiting for the mailman
, hoping for some good news. “Now I been waiting on the mailman : he usually come around about eleven o’clock/ Now I guess he must have had car trouble : or either the road must be blocked/ Mailman : please don’t you lose your head/ You know I’m looking for a letter from my babe : some of my people might be dead.” He tells the story of a fire in his town,”When you see the chief : boys please clear the street/ Because you know he’s going down : save little Martha Hardin’s house for me/ She’s a hard‑working woman : you know her salary is very small/ Then when she pay up her house rent : that don’t leave anything for insurance at all./ Now I wrote little Martha a letter : five days it returned back to me/ You know little Martha Hardin’s house done burnt down : she done moved on Bathurst Street.” It’s almost as though he’s reporting on the local news, but though the details are small and specific, the words and imagery are so urgent the tale becomes more universal. In Floating Bridge
, Estes tells of a time he nearly drowned during a flood. It feels dreamlike and mythological, he talks of the flood and of drowning and rebirth. “Now I never will forget that floating bridge/ Tell me five minutes time under the water I was hid/ When I was going down I thowed up my hands/ Now they carried me in the house and they laid me ‘cross the bank/ “Bout a gallon-and-half muddy water I had drank/ Now they dried me off and they laid me in the bed/ Couldn’t hear nothin’ but muddy water runnnin’ through my head/ Now, people standin’ on the bridge, screamin’ and cry in’ People on the bridge was screamin’ and cry in’” It’s so beautiful and wild and surreally real. One of my favorite songs is Clean Up at Home.
It’s a rare sentiment in any kind of music. It really is about cleaning up your home, but it’s also about taking care of yourself and what you have and who you have, it’s about tending your own garden.
I wash my clothes, I hang ‘em by the fire
Get up in the mornin’ they be thoroughly dry
CHORUS: Clean up at home, clean up at home
Clean up at home, I ‘clare you can’t go wrong
I went to the beer tavern, tryin’ to make me a dime
Said, “Go ‘way, boy, clean up and git on some time.”
Five cents cap and ten cent suit
Then y’all think I’m tryin’ to act cute, I want to
I was doin’ somethin’ that you can’t do
Go ’round on State Street, get a woman for a pot of stew, you have to
CHORUS: Clean up at home, you have to clean up at home,
Clean up at home, I ‘clare you can’t go wrong
I played for the colored, I played for the white
All you got to do, act kinda nice, you got to
CHORUS: Clean up at home, you got to clean up at home
Clean up at home, ‘clare you can’t go wrong
Yeah. I was worried last night and the night before, but I ain’t gonna be worried no more.
I was feeling sort of wobbly all week last week, so I kept making bread, comforting foods. Here’s one! It’s a sort of pizza, but it has a mashed potato crust. This makes the crust quite soft, it’s more of a knife-and-fork pizza. The crust is comforting, but the topping is quite flavorful–roasted mushrooms, olives, and a mixture of sharp cheddar, mozzarella and smoked gouda. A nice meal for a reluctant spring.