Rick Estrin And The Nightcats
Review contributed by Sean McCarthy
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats (formaly Little Charlie and the Nightcats) are my kind of blues band.
They are a seasoned group of four outstanding musicians who come to together to create a sum even greater than their already impressive solo parts.
This is a band in the truest sense of the word.
Aside from the tight, focused playing, the band maintains a sense of humour and playfulness throughout.
For three decades years Rick Estrin was the frontman of a band without his name on it.
He played harmonica, sang, and wrote the songs for Little Charlie and the Nightcats, a San Francisco-based blues band that has made the leap over the years from playing tiny bars to touring the world and recording for Alligator Records.
But when guitarist Charlie Baty (he and Estrin started the band 1976) decided that he wanted to go into semi-retirement in 2008 Estrin and the Nightcats chose to carry on.
Adding incendiary guitarist Chris "Kid" Andersen to the fold, the foursome kept on without missing a beat.
The band has been touring with this line-up for over 3 years now, and is tighter and meaner and groovier than ever.
Estrin has long been acknowledged as one of the smartest songwriters in the blues today and his songs on One Wrong Turn do nothing but enhance that reputation.
A couple of tunes like “Lucky You” and “Desperation Perspiration” are wonderful examples of political and social satire, but politics is not the primary interest of Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, who mostly just want to fill up the dance floor and have a good time.
Estrin's humorous, story-style songs are his trademark and there is no better example of that than "(I Met Her on The) Blues Cruise".
But, Estrin and his band aren't just about double entendres and being flamboyant.
There are some terrific, more ‘serious’ slow blues tracks like “Callin’ All Fools,” “Broke and Lonesome,” and the incredible “Movin’ Slow.”
Estrin demonstrates some fabulous harmonica playing during “Old News,” in which he plays chords and lead lines and sings all so close together you would easily believe there was three of him.
Kid Andersen again co-produces, records, and mixes the record.
He wrote the instrumental that closes the record “The Legend of Taco Cobbler” which could easily find its way into the next Tarantino flick, flirts with Tex-Mex, spaghetti Western, Memphis soul, and half a handful of other genres for nigh on 7 minutes.
It may not exactly be blues, but it’s certainly fantastic.
If you haven’t checked out Kid Andersen’s series of videos on YouTube entitled “Stuff People Play Wrong” I encourage you to do so… right after you have been out and purchased this album of course.
How often have you heard someone say “Oh blues is easy to play… let’s just bang a CD together and throw it out there”?
This kind of record is what separates the men from the boys.
Congratulations to Rick Estrin and the Nightcats for taking the time to “play this stuff right!”
Sean is a current Auckland Blues Club president and is the bass player for The Flaming Mudcats.