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Albums Of The Week: Rick Estrin & The Nightcats | The Hits Keep Coming

AL 5019

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Blues vocalist, harmonica master and songwriting legend Rick Estrin, leader of the musically fearless, wildly entertaining, award-winning band The Nightcats, doesn’t like to talk much about his own musical superpowers.

But ask him about his bandmates — multi-instrumentalist / musical mastermind / producer Christoffer “Kid” Andersen, keyboardist / organ wizard / bass player Lorenzo Farrell and endlessly creative drummer Derrick “D’Mar” Martin — and he’ll be happy to sing their praises. “This band is killer. I’m enjoying this all more than ever,” says the man who’s been performing and recording professionally since the early 1970s. “It’s a blessing — there’s so much energy, so much collaboration. The band is just so good right now. And the live show is better than ever.”

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats’ new album and the band’s sixth release, The Hits Keep Coming, packs a powerful punch, with phenomenal musicianship and lyrics — both serious and humorous. Produced by Andersen at his legendary Greaseland USA studio in San Jose, the record captures the band’s chemistry and magic in what is certainly among their strongest, most urgent and most cohesive releases so far.

Photo by Steve Jennings.

The Hits Keep Coming is modern blues at its most potent, intense and fun in all the right places, as Estrin & The Nightcats deliver 12 groove-heavy, hard-hitting songs, including 10 written or co-written by Estrin and two surprising covers (one obscurity from Muddy Waters, and one from Leonard Cohen that Estrin would have liked to have written). From the foot-stomping opener Somewhere Else, to the harsh reality of the title track (with backing vocals by The Sons Of The Soul Revivers), to the musically infectious, lyrically harrowing song about addiction, The Circus Is Still In Town, The Hits Keep Coming is a lyrical and musical tour-de-force.

In addition to Estrin’s celebrated songwriting and peerless blues harmonica playing, he and the band are among the most entertaining and colorful showmen around. Estrin’s signature streetwise vocals and hipster-cool look, Andersen’s eye-popping, off-the-cuff guitar pyrotechnics, Farrell’s mighty organ, piano and bass work and D’Mar’s dynamic, acrobatic drumming make every one of their live performances a must-see event. “People don’t go out to see people who look like themselves,” says Estrin. “They want to see something special. I was schooled in this business to be a showman, and that’s what you get when you come to see us perform. We know how to put on a show. I feel sorry for anyone who has to follow us.”

Estrin was schooled by some of the very best blues musicians on the West Coast. While still a teen, he was tutored by San Francisco’s famed musician (and pimp) Fillmore Slim. He was mentored by San Francisco’s legendary Rodger Collins and gigged with blues stars Lowell Fulson and Z.Z. Hill. Estrin moved to Chicago when he was 19 to work with Windy City bluesmen Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay and John Littlejohn, and even jammed with Muddy Waters. He returned to California and continued to hone his craft. By the time he joined forces with jaw-dropping guitarist Little Charlie Baty and formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats in 1976 — a band he would front for the next 30 years — Estrin was a seasoned performer with plenty of talent and a gift for writing killer original songs.

Photo by Steve Jennings.

Upon Baty’s retirement from touring in 2008, Estrin, together with Farrell (a Nightcat since 2003), recruited high-flying guitar wunderkind Andersen and formed Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. With Kid onboard, the band quickly became a worldwide favorite with blues fans as well as with critics and radio programmers. “Kid’s fearless on the guitar,” says Estrin. “He’s really the only guy who could fit in with us.”

With an uninhibited style that perfectly meshed with Estrin’s wildly imaginative songs, the new band charged out of the gate with Twisted in 2009, following up with One Wrong Turn in 2012, You Asked For It — Live! in 2014, Groovin’ In Greaseland in 2016 and Contemporary in 2019. Each album is its own treasure chest full of memorable songs and white-hot playing.

Estrin & The Nightcats have performed at festivals and concert stages from San Francisco to Chicago to New York, and everywhere in between, and have toured the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Poland, Australia, Israel and even Estonia and Russia. They have twice won the coveted Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year. Additionally, Estrin has won Blues Music Awards for Song Of The Year, Traditional Male Blues Artist and for Instrumentalist – Harmonica.”


Photo by Steve Jennings.