Twisting the Blues

Rick Estrin's working on his Nightcats

Twisting the Blues

“We’d love to come down here more often,” Rick Estrin explained from the Antone’s stage last night, "but someone’s got to book us!” Up until then, it had been at least ten years since Estrin and the Nightcats played Austin, surprising for a blues-loving town.

For more than 30 years, the Northern California-based band was known as Little Charlie and the Nightcats. They won multiple awards and toured the world, but in 2008, guitarist Charlie Baty decided to retire from the road and Estrin, whose vocals, harmonica, and songwriting lead the band, took the reins. With big, blonde Norwegian Chris “Kid” Andersen taking the guitar slot, the Nightcats haven’t missed a beat. Andersen proved more than capable with all types of styles, recalling everyone from Albert King to Link Wray to Jimi Hendrix, flashy but tasteful throughout.

Estrin was the focus, a little greasy yet self-deprecating, his songs equally offbeat and masterful. The Nightcats concentrated on tunes from Twisted (Alligator), their first Estrin-led disc, and one that rocks just a little harder than what the band has been known for.

It wasn’t until the end of 90-minute set that fireworks went off. Andersen took a solo that got more antic with every string broke and, in a stunning move, Estrin expertly blew his harp, inserted sideways into his mouth. The crowd responded with a standing ovation and Antone’s felt like the old dusty blues club it had been long ago. We can only hope it won’t be another ten years before the Nightcats return to town.

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Rick Estrin & the Nightcats

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