Online since August 2002

New guitarist shines on Nightcats disc

Reviewed August 2009

By Rick Estrin and the Nightcats

Alligator: 2009

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Rick Estrin is a harp whiz and singer who has fronted the Nightcats since 1976, when Little Charlie and the Nightcats started out. When "Little" Charlie Baty retired as guitarist in 2008, Estrin recruited guitarist "Kid" Andersen to take his place and the band became Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. The first CD with the new lineup is "Twisted."

The disc establishes that it lost nothing with the departure of Baty. Andersen is a stiletto-sharp showman, with a fast pick and the ability to carve licks as varied as surf and funk to traditional blues with clean facility. Estrin continues to be a strong vocal presence and harpmaster, giving the band a two-pronged attack on the tunes here, with Andersen often in the forefront.

"Big Time" is a blues-rock intro for the disc, Estrin getting the listener acquainted with the sound, with his harp bringing to mind the hard-blowing style of the late William Clarke. Next up, "Back From the Dead" gives Andersen a few measures to slice some surf-inspired riffs into the uptempo blues tune. "Walk All Day" has plenty of R&B flavor and funk, with Andersen featured and firing off rapid-fire notes impressively. "Catchin' Hell" is slower, and well sung by Estrin as Andersen's fiery guitar again shines. The instrumental "Earthquake" is a surf-blues guitar exercise, and to no surprise Andersen lays in good bluesy breaks, as does Estrin. The harpist is featured in "P A Slim is Back," a good Chicago-style blues boogie, and the slower instrumental harp piece "Take It Slow." "Cool Breeze" is another instrumental that goes for more of a jazzy feel, with a bouncing bass line and each band member taking the weight for a few bars of relaxed soloing. Andersen is the focus of "Bigfoot," this time a showpiece of rockabilly-style licks, a nod to the late Danny Gatton.

The generous 14-cut disc is a mixture of blues approaches that all click. The singing, harp and guitar are first-rate, and it is clear that this is intended as the unveiling of Andersen as a force to be reckoned with and an impressive young talent in blues music.

Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.

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