Nick Curran & the Nitelifes

Texas platters

Phases and Stages

Nick Curran & the Nitelifes

Player! (Blind Pig)

OK, so Nick Curran overdoes the retro bit. Somehow, he gets away with it, maybe because he just steamrolls right over it with such undeniable fire and force that you've no choice but to step back and let the man blow. Curran first surfaced in Dallas as a rockabilly from Maine, but since moving to Austin around the turn of the millennium, he's gone increasingly toward blues. The three-piece Nitelifes put out a pretty good racket all by their lonesome but here are augmented with horns and familiar extra hands like guitarist Dave Biller (who helped write all the originals) and harmonicat Kim Wilson. They do the Wynonie Harris jump flawlessly on "Down Boy Down" and jazzy instrumental "The Groovy Jam." With the help of the providence horns, they also turn in a stylish, uptown Duke-Peacock groove on Bobby Bland's "Honey Bee." They update Little Richard's unstoppable sound on the title track as well as on their version of Richard's "Heebie Jeebies" and take it to Chicago for "Leavin'" and Little Walter's "Crazy Mixed Up World." As a guitarist, Curran's debt to T-Bone/B.B. is obvious, but he's always adding his own little touches – squeezing a couple extra notes into a solo, toying with time, dirtying up a figure his models played clean. The Stooges' "No Fun," for instance, is transformed into a West Coast stroll. Curran, the Blues Foundation's recently named Best New Artist, knows how to jump and jive so the music is alive rather than a museum piece. Slick schtick, Nick.

***.5

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