Review: Rick Estrin And The Nightcats – You Asked For It . . . Live!

Posted on: Friday, Sep 26, 2014

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Rick Estrin And The Nightcats – You Asked For It . . . Live!

(Alligator Records: ALCD 4962)

When Little Charlie Baty became tired of touring after over 20 years with Little Charlie & The Nightcats, harmonica ace and fellow band member Rick Estrin continued to lead the band, recruiting Norwegian-born guitarist Chris ‘Kid’ Andersen, to complete the new line-up along with Lorenzo Farrell (keyboards and bass) and J. Hansen (drums), with his name now out front, and here, on their third release for Alligator Records, they are captured doing what they do best . . . playing live! This excellent album catches them at one of their regular venues, the world-famous Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, with a ‘smokin’ hot’ show from last October.

Rick Estrin is without doubt the blues most original and often hilarious writer, his original tunes as wry as they come – not to mention his standing as one of the best harmonica players around, and in the wild guitar of Andersen he has the perfect foil, backed by the super rhythm section of Farrell and Hansen . . . so what we have here is a brilliant 70-minutes with some dips into the back catalogue, but a joy from start to finish, that is lapped up by the Californian audience.

The music explodes into action with the opening and lengthy “Handle With Care” that swings along in great style, with Estrin’s super cool vocals and chromatic harmonica, backed by the explosive guitar playing of Kid Andersen and the grooving rhythm section of Lorenzo Farrell and J. Hansen; ‘affairs of the heart’ are always in Estrin’s songs and the great “New Old Lady” is a treat; with a dip way back for the ever-popular “My Next Ex-Wife”, with Rick Estrin quizzing the audience about divorce and the consequences, as the band lay down a funky backing over a leisurely 8:28.

J. Hansen gets the spotlight on his self-penned shuffle “Baker Man Blues”, taking the lead vocal with some witty lyrics giving Mr. Estrin a run for his money! The strength of Rick Estrin’s chromatic harmonica playing is illustrated again on the swinging “Smart Like Einstein”, with some tasteful licks from the guitar of Kid Andersen; the rockabilly-flavoured “You’re Gonna Lie” fairly rattles along, with Andersen’s twangy guitar and the driving rhythm section prominent.

Another beauty here is the co-write between Rick Estrin and Dave Alvin, the lovely “Never Trust A Woman”, which showcases the glorious guitar of Kid Andersen, who has now established himself as one of the best blues guitarists around, and here he is on fire! This great album ends with some Sonny Boy Williamson, taking the pace down, for a sweet “Too Close Together”, with just Estrin’s voice and marvellous harmonica and minimal backing from the band . . .

Needless to say . . . this comes highly recommended!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.rickestrin.com

www.alligator.com

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