"Hugely entertaining, intelligently conceived and executed roots rock with a wickedly cool and otherworldly twist on tradition. Estrin’s harp work is masterful." –Living Blues

Rick Estrin & the Nightcats Latest Release CONTEMPORARY


Award-winning San Francisco Bay-area blues band Rick Estrin and The Nightcats released their fifth Alligator Records album, CONTEMPORARY, on Friday, September 20, 2019. With Estrin's harmonica virtuosity and sly soulful vocals, Christoffer Kid Andersen's wildly inventive guitar, Lorenzo Farrell's masterful keyboards and Derrick “D’Mar” Martin's funky, creative drumming, the band takes Estrin’s ingenious, original songs to new and unexpected places. With these musically fearless players kicking everything up a notch, Contemporary explores some different sounds, instrumentation and grooves from their previous releases, as they continue to reinvent traditional blues styles. 

Order your copy and listen to samples here:

Contemporary Hits the Blues Charts

#1 on the NACC (North American College & Community) Blues genre chart week ending October 1, 2019. 

Debuted at the #10 spot for the week ending October 5, 2019 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart. 

For the week ending October 5, 2019, is #10 on the Contemporary Blues Chart and #13 on the Blues Chart from the Roots Music Report.

Debuted at #2 on the September 2019 Living Blues Radio Chart.

#1 on the September 2019 International Blues Music Charts -ABARAC.

REVIEWS - Contemporary

No Depression

by Grant Britt
September 2019

Rick Estrin & the Nightcats Tap into the Past for Their ‘Contemporary’ Sound

Rick Estrin is a time traveler. Surfing sound waves from the past, the Nightcats’ vocalist/harpist pays homage to blues masters like James Cotton, Junior Wells, and Little Walter, incorporating their musical personalities into his own eclectic sound. 

Clad in suits that look like they might have been all the rage for a 1940s hipster, the Nightcats (named for Little Walter’s first band) was co-founded by Estrin in 1976 with guitarist Charlie Baity. Together they created a unique sound rooted in the past, bolstered by Estrin’s time-warping original compositions. 

Calling the latest release Contemporary is a tongue-in-cheek poke at the band’s retro-rejuvenation/renovation vision. In the video for the title cut, after reading in Rolling Stone that blues is dead, Estrin scrambles to come up with a career-saving gimmick. Fearing that he’s “Headed for oblivion cause my style’s just too low down,” he gets auto-tuned and hip-hopped for the occasion. But long-time fans need not worry — despite the struttin’, stylin’, and profilin’, he and the band never abandon their mission, reverting to their time-tested sound in the end. 

The band sounds better than ever. Guitarist Kid Anderson, who took Baity’s place when he retired in 2008, had to be able to hold a musical conversation in rockabilly, jazz, blues, rock, and big band swing, often in the same song. Anderson embraced that challenge, firing back at Estrin’s mood swings with innovative licks as quirky as Estrin’s delivery and lyrics. 

Estrin takes on another aspect of time travel on “I’m Runnin,’” feeling Father Time creeping up on him in this spaghetti western soundtrack. 

But as usual, Estrin and the Cats don’t stay in one place long, the harpist breaking out of the western soundscape for a back alley Chicago harp travelogue before Anderson and keyboardist Lorenzo Farrell do some deep-space exploration on organ and guitar. 

In addition to his harp and vocal talents, Estrin is a world-class smartass who writes songs like Leiber and Stoller did for the Coasters with “Yakety Yak” and “Young Blood.” On “She Nuts Up,” his lady’s mood swings go to a squirrelly place but he hangs around for the benefits when she nuts up after the lights go out and they get to rocking the house. 

As strong a presence as Estrin is, the Nightcats are a formidable force as well. On “House Of Grease,” named for Anderson’s Greaseland Studios where they recorded, Anderson shows off his versatility on  both bass and guitar. New addition, former Little Richard drummer Derrick D’Mar Martin, lays down a landing strip of solid funk for keyboardist Farrell to burble around on. 

The Nightcats’ latest upholds the band’s belief that with the right attitude and a stellar cast, you can have one foot in the past and still be contemporary.

Rock and Blues Muse

by Mike O'Cull
September 2019

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, one of the best blues bands in the world, is back and showing off a brand new album, Contemporary, that comes out September 20th, 2019 on Alligator Records. 

Having won 2018’s Blues Music Award for “Band of the Year”, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats features the combined talents of blues harmonica virtuoso and soulful singer Estrin, six-string superhero Kid Andersen, piano/organ man Lorenzo Farrell and drummer Derrick “D’Mar” Martin. They are poised to keep these four stellar talents busy for a long time yet to come. Contemporary is produced by Andersen and Estrin. 

Estrin has long been recognized as an outstanding harmonica player and one of the finest showmen in the blues. His fat-toned harp, quick wit, slick vocals, hipster persona, and unforgettable sense of personal style have made him an icon in modern roots music and taken him around the world. 

Born in San Francisco in 1949, Estrin’s older sister gave him a copy of Ray Charles’ The Genius Sings The Blues when he was 12 and he became obsessed with music. He began playing harmonica at 15 and by 18 was playing in clubs around the city. His harp style is deep in the tradition of harmonica masters Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter Jacobs and he writes songs with the brilliant lyricism and humor of giants like Louis Jordan and Chuck Berry. Estrin is a bigger-than-life character in all ways but always comes across as the real deal. 

Contemporary is a wonderful record that finds Rick and his cohorts in fighting shape and ready to go. This time out, they take on some different sounds, arrangements, and grooves that may surprise some longtime fans but imbue it all with the classic Nightcats vibe. The record opens with the percolating noir-ish meditation on time and aging “I’m Running,” in which Estrin recounts his dicey relationship with Father Time and his decreasing odds of escaping his clutches. The tune simmers on a low boil until Rick unleashes some of the most toneful harp licks of his career and shifts the band into a higher gear. 

The title track, “Contemporary,” is hilarious and ultra-creative. It outlines all the changes Estrin needs to make to become a full-on modern superstar and digs deep into funk, heavy rock, and hip-hop sounds. It even includes a touch of Auto-Tune on Rick’s vocals to complete the effect. It’s the most stylistically daring song Estrin has ever recorded but he and the band slam dunk it for a big win. The track clearly demonstrates the depth contained within The Nightcats and just how much mojo Estrin has as a performer. One listen and you’ll realize why he has five Blues Music Awards at home with his name on them. 

“New Shape (Remembering Junior Parker)” is a funky and soulful cut about a lovely young woman who has gone from “skin and bones” to a thicker, more alluring silhouette that very much meets with Rick’s approval. It’s a cool groove that’ll move blues fans from the bar to the dancefloor in a hot minute. “House Of Grease” is an instrumental track that lets guitarist Andersen and keyboardist Farrell stretch out and show us all a good time. “Cupcakin’” keeps the instrumental glory going and sounds like a 21st Century version of Booker T & The MGs. “New Year’s Eve” and “Nothing But Love” are also highlights. 

Contemporary ends with yet another instrumental, “Bo Dees Bounce,” that takes the record out with the kind of straight-ahead blues that Estrin has built his legend upon. His phrasing and tone are spot-on and inspiring and the whole crew responds to every lick he plays. Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are mighty, indeed, on this new set and give no indication of ever slowing down. Estrin is a roots music treasure and we’re all fortunate to have been blessed with another blast of his greatness.

BONUS - Rick Estrin Interview

Rick Estrin is interviewed by our friends at Rock and Blues Muse. Rick discusses the band’s new album, Contemporary, the amazing Nightcats, learning from Muddy Waters and more. “Estrin is considered one of the best harmonica players and songwriters in the blues.” 

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