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Rick Estrin and the Nightcats - One Wrong Turn

Alligator Records

12 songs; 49:59 minutes

Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Harmonica led Blues, and Blues Rock

Rare are the blues artist and blues album that never make “One Wrong Turn.” Fans must look long and hard to find them, but in the case of multi-talented Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, the search is over! These four Californians have taken their huge blues knowledge and spun it through their slightly warped musical vision to create an album of tough yet often-hilarious blues. It’s genuinely difficult to decide which songs (out of twelve originals) are the best, but here are major kudos for three of them found on this second release by the now Estrin-led group:

Track 04: Best Lyrics: “(I Met Her on the) Blues Cruise”--Name-dropping can be a cardinal sin in literature and blues songs, but here it works perfectly. Rick Estrin narrates the tale of a hapless Blues Cruiser looking for love in all the wrong places--specifically, the places tattooed with portraits of blues stars on his lover’s body! “She had a heart right above her heart that said ‘Ronnie Baker Brooks’. Bobby Rush was on her muffin top, grinning at me non-stop, and the Tommy Castro tramp stamp was tough to overlook….” The YouTube music video of this song is a hoot, but don’t watch it with little kids around!

Track 09: Best Guitar: “Broke and Lonesome”--This lament’s theme is perennially familiar, yet Chris “Kid” Andersen’s roaring shredder brings it to crisp new life. Each note falls like a drop of acid rain on listeners’ ears, possessing a lingering hypnotic effect. This is the type of blues song in which one can let one’s imagination wander, especially during the tail-kicking solo in the middle! “What’s so happy about a Happy Meal?” Estrin wonders as Kid launches into a swinging tempo. One thing’s clear: his guitar’s not “Broke”!

Track 11: Best Harmonica: “Old News”--The only two instruments played on the almost-final song are Estrin’s voice and his mouth harp, to marvelous effect. It’s a wry commentary on the bewildering nature of today’s top stories, posing questions that might be asked by the uninformed: “Hey, what’s a jumbo shrimp, and what’s a high-class pimp? Hey, what’s a civil war? What’s up with less is more?” To Estrin, “That’s old news!” His gritty harmonica riffs are perfect background music for an old-fashioned hoedown, prompting listeners to dance on the floor or in their seats. This ditty is so catchy that it should have finished out the album!

Other featured musicians include Lorenzo Farrell and J. Hansen, along with guest sax and trumpet players such as Doug James, Terry Hanck, and Chris Barnes. Blues fans, if you’re weary of “baby, baby, baby” permutations, you won’t make “One Wrong Turn” if you give Rick Estrin and the Nightcats a shot!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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