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March 1999

Little Charlie and the Nightcats
Shadow of the Blues
Alligator Records

Speaking of novelty, Little Charlie and the Nightcats have made a career of combining sly, humorous lyrics and jive-styled attitude (courtesy of vocalist-songwriter-harmonica ace Rick Estrin) with killing instrumentals, (courtesy of Estrin and the accomplished and versatile six-stringer Charlie Baty). They crank out more of the same on Shadow of the Blues (Alligator 4862; 55:40), their eighth for the label. Tunes like "Never Trust a Woman," "When Your Woman Is Gone," "Big And Fat," "I Don't Drink Much," and the hilarious "Dirty Dealin' Mama" follow in the rollicking, good natured spirit that the band established on its Alligator debut 11 years ago. Estrin is not only an antic frontman (sort of a jump blues version of the emcee in Cabaret), he is also a virtuosic harmonica player who blows in the raucous tradition of Sonny Boy Williamson, as he ably Demonstrates on Williamson's boogie woogie "You Don't Love Me That Way," the jaunty instrumental shuffle "Got It Good" and the tough closer "You Got to Rock." Baty adds considerable fretboard flash and finesse on "You Got Your Hooks in Me," "Walkin' in the Shadow of the Blues" and the uptempo instrumental showcase "Percolatin'." A great Bay Area bar band that made good, and still doing it to death after all these years.

Originally published in March 1999
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