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CD REVIEW -- Rick Estrin & the Nightcats

RICK ESTRIN AND THE NIGHTCATS

One Wrong Turn

Alligator

Rick Estrin CD

By Mike O’Cull

                Rick Estrin is one of the most popular and talented men in the blues scene today. For 30 years, he fronted Little Charlie and the Nightcats, putting his hipster cool vocals and hard-charging harmonica on top of Little Charlie Baty’s unique and exciting guitar style. Since Little Charlie retired from the road a few years back, Estrin has taken charge of the Nightcats, put his own name in front, and has continued to bring his Little Walter-meets-Lieber-and Stoller-at-a-Louis-Jordan-gig sound to the world at large. One Wrong Turn is the second Estrin/Nightcats effort on Alligator Records and it continues in the bands’ established tradition and will no doubt appeal to longtime fans as well as Nightcats newbies.

                Estrin has proven, historically, that he is incapable of making a bad record, so let’s just get that out of the way: this album kills, just like all his stuff. Rick surrounds himself with great players so the music always sounds great, but what really makes his work jump is his skill as a songwriter. Truly original songwriters are hard to find in roots music, as many performers seem to be too much in the shadow of their influences, unwilling to emerge. Estrin is that rare artist who takes the sum of his influences and melds their styles into his own unique voice. The music is not quite straight blues, nor is it straight ‘50s style rock and roll, but, rather, it is something that exists between the two styles. From the greasy and groovy opening cut, “D.O.G.,” to the hilarious “(I Met Her On The) Blues Cruise” to the funky “Desperation Perspiration,” Estrin shows his skill at putting new wine into old bottles, a trick he does better than most.

 

                The current lineup of The Nightcats is, of course, stellar and does a superb job of making the tunes on One Wrong Turn come to life. Norwegian guitar slinger Kid Andersen is in exceptionally fine form on these sessions and does quite a bit of style-melding of his own. He shows his skills at various blues and rock ’n’ roll styles here, as well as busting out some serious surf chops on the instrumental “The Legend Of Taco Cobbler”. He, like Charlie Baty before him, is a great foil and partner for Estrin and the two together are pretty much unstoppable.  

 

                Estrin is in the unique position these days of becoming an elder statesman in the scene while doing his best work to date at a time in his career when other similar performers would be content to rest on their back catalogue. One Wrong Turn is as vital and alive as it gets and, judging by the amount of energy contained on this record, Estrin just might be the first bluesman to live forever. This is my favorite album of 2012 so far, and anyone who loves the blues and roots music should buy a copy and help Rick and the boys keep the magic going. 

 Be sure to see Rick & The Nightcats' outrageously funny video for "(I Met Her On The) Blues Cruise" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqS_nL2jvHE

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