Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Wrong Turn reviewed by Mark Thompson

One Wrong Turn
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Alligator Records
12 tracks:50:01

Holy harmonicas – the merry hipster of the blues is back with another intoxicating brew that contains equal parts humor, infectious rhythms and top-drawer musicianship. Rick Estrin has the coolest persona  in the blues world. Famed for his witty songwriting and mind-blowing harmonica playing, Estrin gets rock-solid support from his long-time rhythm section comprised of Lorenzo Farrell on bass and keyboards plus J. Hansen on drums. Guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen has chops to spare and shows his versatility by making contributions on keyboards, bass and backing vocals.

Highlights abound as the band delivers one masterful performance after another. The opening track, “D.O.G.”, sports a slinky rhythm as Estrin takes a back-door man to task for his low-down ways, then emphasizes his feelings with a gut-busting harp solo. He is just as good on the chromatic harp on the forlorn tribute to the brokenhearted, “Callin' All Fools”. Farrell adds an extra later of flavor on the organ. Jack Sanford's sax spices up the New Orleans R&B groove on “Movin' Slow”, with more impeccable harp from the leader.

The organ-drenched “Broke and Lonesome” is a slow, worrying blues with Estrin's woeful tale underscored by Andersen's jagged guitar lines that burn with bone-chilling intensity. Hansen takes over the lead vocal on the rocked-out “You Ain't the Boss of Me” wit Andersen adopting a shimmering guitar tone that recalls the legendary Lonnie Mack. Estrin is alone in the spotlight on “Old News”, his stark lamentation on life's contradictions set off by a foot-stomping' beat and his dazzling harp playing. The focus shifts to Anderson on “The Legend of Taco Cobbler”, a breakneck surf guitar rave-up that shifts through musical genres as fast as Andersen's fingers fly up and down the fretboard. The title cut renders a cautionary warning about life's shifting currents while “Desperation Perspiration” establishes a funky mode while Estrin's wry humor details  some issues associated with man's desperate pursuit of women.

The track that has already attracted plenty of attention is “(I Met Her On The) Blues Cruise” ( go to the Alligator website to watch the hilarious video for this song). It's a side-splitting tale of a late-night rendezvous on the high seas derailed by the woman's unusual collection of tattoos. The horn section of Doug James on sax and Chris Barnes on trumpet add to the merriment while Estrin and Andersen trade licks on a track that will delight anyone who has been a part of the blues Cruise experience.

You end up with a perfect balance between the band's flamboyant style and their off-the-hook instrumental prowess. The unique talents of the leader gives the band a decided edge. Devoid of a weak moment or false sentiment, this release makes it abundantly clear that Rick Estrin and the Nightcats are one of the premier bands on the blues tour circuit. Don't miss this one!

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