Rick Estrin & The
If you've been listening to
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats long enough,
then you pretty much know what to expect from
the latest, Contemporary (Alligator
Records). Lots of solid blues with smokin'
harmonica and guitar, seamlessly mixing in
Estrin's signaturel novelty songs. This version
of the Nightcats includes Lorenzo Farrell (organ
and piano), the omnipresent Kid Andersen (guitar
and other miscellaneous sounds) and Derrick
D'Mar Martin (drums). Like seemingly every other
blues disc nowadays, it was recorded and mixed
at Andersen's Greaseland Studio in Santa Cruz,
Martin sets the tone at he start of "I'm Running," using
brushes on his drums to create an eery, jazzy vibe as Estrin's inner
paranoia and nervousness comes out while he's being chased by someone or
something. This one will get your heart pumping rapidly. That same
attitude continues when Estrin sings about the "Resentment File," as he
thinks that women are keeping notes on everything he's ever done wrong.
"Contemporary" has Estrin singing about how he's got to change his style
to keep up with modern trends, and here is where the various sound
effects that mark a lot of Andersen's recordings with various moog and
synthesizer sound effect techniques come in. There's even a brief
biographical rap by Martin about Estrin's background. Kind of brilliant,
but we all know that deep down Estrin is a bluesman and doesn't believe
any of this idea of becoming contemporary.
Farrell uses his organ to establish a snaky, late night
feel on "She Nuts Up," a shuffle number also leaving space for a nice
Estrin harmonica solo. "New Shape" is Estrin's tribute to Junior Parker,
a mid-tempo blues on which he compliments his woman's new appearance.
The funky "Root Of All Evil" has one of my favorite lines on the album:
"...if money is the root of all evil, what do you call being broke ..."
Estrin plays his chromatic harmonica on the plodding
dark blues, "The Main Event," singing about what's going to happen when
he's gone from this world. Yes, it's very dark, but in a Rick Estrin
kind of tongue-in-cheek way. We even get some funereal-type organ from
Farrell to emphasize the mood before Estrin sings, "... I may go to the
devil, or I might rot here in the ground ..." The mood lift comes on the
next cut, the instrumental "Cupcakin'," with very hot bluesy, jazzy
guitar from Andersen.
With the holiday season coming soon, it's only
appropriate for Estrin to tell us what he thinks about the holidays on
the bouncy "New Year's Eve." We find out that he doesn't like Christmas,
but that New Year's Eve is a chance for him to move on to what he hopes
will be a better year. Estrin takes advantage of the closing number, "Bo
Dee's Bounce," to really rip off plenty of extended harmonica riffs
while drummer Martin drives the band with a tasteful and steady beat.
While everything that Estrin and the Nightcats have done
has been great, Andersen's production work just takes Contemporary
to an other level. It's an essential addition to the already prolific
--- Bill Mitchell