CD of the Month

RICK ESTRIN & THE NIGHTCATS: Groovin’ In Greaseland

Alligator ALCD 4977 (55:00)

The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere/ Looking For A Woman/ Dissed Again/ Tender Hearted/ MWAH!/ I Ain’t All That/ Another Lonesome Day/ Hands Of Time/ Cool Slaw/ Big Money/ Hot In Here/ Living Hand To Mouth/ So Long (For Jay P.)

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats have crafted an instantly identifiable sound. With the talents of harmonica player/songwriter/vocalist Estrin, guitar maestro Kid Andersen, Lorenzo Farrell on keys, and drummer Alex Pettersen, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats serve up sharp and insightful original blues combined with tough rock’n’roll. ‘Groovin’ In Greaseland’ contains thirteen original songs, eleven by Estrin, and one each by Andersen and Farrell. The album was produced by Andersen and Estrin and recorded at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio in San Jose, California.

Opening with ‘The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere’, Estrin blows fat toned chromatic harp on a fast shuffle breakdown with potent lyrics on the current state of affairs (politicians, preachers, the whole nine yards!). ‘Looking For A Woman’ – ‘looking for a woman ain’t nothing new, I was looking for a woman, when I met you’ – that’s usually the way it works isn’t it? Estrin blows great gusts of harp over a solid rhythm background (not forgetting the taut solo from Andersen).

I am reliably informed that if one is ‘dissed’ it means that someone is showing disrespect. ‘Dissed Again’ is a solid slab of rock’n’roll relating a quirky tale of being a working musician, including being ‘dissed’ by a promoter who wants you to ‘open for a ten-year-old who sounds just like Stevie Ray’. Now that I can understand!

There are three instrumentals on board, ‘MWAH!’, which, as you’d imagine is a ‘Wham’ clone, it features a ripping solo from Nancy Wright on tenor sax. ‘Cool Slaw’ is penned by Farrell and is a feature for the man himself on organ, but Rick is not to be outdone and gets a solo in. ‘So Long (For Jay P.)’ has a lazy, Louisiana sound and is an extended feature for the harp man.

‘Another Lonesome Day’ slows the tempo – with electric piano, and thumping bass (by guest Jerry Jemmott) – it’s a lazy, grinding number with a laconic vocal from Estrin. ‘Hands Of Time’ is another churning shuffle, ‘Big Money’ is a humorous piece – ‘you’ve got a whole lot of class, but it’s all low’ – yep, I know just what he is talking about.

The harp playing on ‘Hot In Here’ nods to Sonny Boy II, the boys have been in Greaseland all night long for 2-3 days and the temperature is rising! In the current climate, ‘Living Hand To Mouth’ is a way of life for many people, Estrin takes a sardonic look at the way things are and the outlook is not too optimistic.

‘Groovin’ In Greaseland’ is a sure fire winner all the way, Estrin is in great form, both on harp and vocals, the material is droll, and the band – and I have to give a nod to Farrell who is superb on piano and organ – are superb throughout. If you have Estrin’s previous releases, then you’ll need to add this one to your rack. A straw poll of the guys in the snug bar of The Sturgeon And Salmond gave this one a big five stars!

Phil Wight

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