Groovin' In Greaseland
Its been 30 years since Alligator signed Little Charlie and the Nitecats. Guitarist Charle Baty was the bandleader, by Rick Estrin fronted the band with his somewhat gruff, heartfelt wise-guy vocals (a phrase Bruce Iglauer employs describing Estrin's singing), authoritative harmonica and songwriting, full of wit and wisdom. In 2009, when Baty retired from touring, Estrin took over the band and this is the fourth CD under his leadership. Greaseland in the title refers to the studio that Nitecats guitarist Kid Andersen operates where this disc was recorded. His productions have been among the finest recent straight-ahead blues and roots recordings from any source and this disc has much of the same qualities with clean crisp sound. Lorenzo Farrell is on keyboards while Alex Pettersen occupies the drum chair. There are a number of guests on various tracks including saxophonist Nancy Wright, bassist Jerome Jemmott and electric pianist Jim Pugh. Estrin contributed 11 of the tunes here (one a collaboration with Andersen), while Andersen added one as did keyboardist Farrell.
As suggested above, this is a wonderfully played recording by a super band, starting with the kicking opening shuffle, "The Blues Ain't Going Nowhere," with a litany of reasons why the blues ain't dying with some fat chromatic playing. Then there is the humor of "Dissed Again," with Farrell's rollicking piano. It is followed "Tender Hearted" with Estrin's talking about the experiences with back biting rats so he is tender hearted no more. It has scintillating tremolo-laced guitar from Andersen along with more strong chromatic harp. Joe Kyle on bass and Pettersen lay down a nicely restrained groove here. Andersen's terrific tribute to Lonnie Mack, ""MWAH!" is a reworking of Mack's classic instrumental "WHAM!," and he captures Mack's Magnetone amp sound.
"Another Lonesome Day," is a slow blues with Andersen evoking Otis Rush and Ike Turner, while Estrin is in a Sonny Boy Williamson II vein with his crying harp playing here. It is followed by the Estrin-Andersen collaboration "Hands of Time," with a groove evocative of "High Heel Sneakers," and some strong amplified hard. Farrell is featured with his greasy organ on the jazzy "Cole Slaw," with a short harp break and some very nice fretwork from Andersen. After a heated shuffle celebrating partying going on at Greaseland, "Hot in Here," there is a strong topical blues "Living Hand To Mouth."
The album closes with a harmonica feature "So Long (for Jay P.)" that showcases not simply Estrin's virtuosity, but his taste and how he shapes his solo. With the excellent backing here, and the throughout this recording, it is fitting coda to another marvelous recording from Rick Estrin & the Nitecats.
I received my review copy from Alligator Records. Here Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are seen performing "The Blues Ain't Going Nowhere."