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Alligator (ALCD4962)

Handle With Care, Clothes Line, New Old Lady, My Next Ex-Wife, Baker Man Blues, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, Smart Like Einstein, That’s Big, You Gonna Lie, Never Trust A Woman, Dump That Chump, Don’t Do It, Too Close Together

A live album from a band committed to providing top notch entertainment just has to be a good idea, right?

Recent studio albums from the band (Twisted and One Wrong Turn, both on Alligator) were both well received and positively reviewed at Red Lick but if any band was designed to see and hear live, this is the one.

Recorded on October 5th 2013 at the Biscuits & Blues Club, San Francisco (Rick’s home town), this spirited performance, great sound recording and a lively and receptive crowd show off the band to great effect.

First off, Rick demonstrates what a great front man he is, blowing his award-winning blues harmonica in and around his sly and disarming vocals that perfectly deliver his wry and witty songs alongside a charismatic huckster personality. And the Nightcats are all scintillating musicians, most notable being the explosive guitarist Kid Andersen. Kid is a proper blues guitar hero, full of killer licks of roadhouse boogie, deep blues, rockabilly and more without breaking stride.

As is often the case with live albums, the material is taken from the band’s back catalogue of favourites. Perversely here though they largely ignore recent albums in favour of delving further back into the days when they recorded and toured as Little Charlie & The Nightcats (prior to ace guitarist Charlie Baty retiring in 2008 and being replaced by Kid Andersen).  

But what songs they are. Rick is known for his distinctive wordplay, eschewing standard phrases and clichés in favour of playful and amusing lyrical badinage. You might even guess this just by browsing song titles here – see My Next Ex-Wife and Dump That Chump!

But its the stunning music that drags you back time and again. Tight, powerful and varied, this is a West Coast blues band at the height of its powers, stretching out and flexing considerable musical muscle on the swinging blues of Smart Like Einstein, pulsating rockabilly of You Gonna Lie, atmospheric Chicago blues of Never Trust A Woman and greasy R&B on Don’t Do It. And, the set is brought to a satisfying conclusion with the only non-original, Sonny Boy Williamson’s Too Close Together, where Rick pays homage to one of his primary influences with a sly after-hours encore.

Whether you have followed the band for some time or are just looking for some infectious and enjoyable blues, this CD is heartily recommended.


Review Date: June 2014

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