After more than 30 years performing and with nine albums to his credit, blues frontman Rick Estrin has just a bit of confidence in his own musical abilities.
“We know how to put on a show. I feel sorry for anyone who has to follow us,” says Estrin with a smile.
When the musician performs with his band, the Nightcats, at Fanatics Pub in Lima on June 3, Estrin will not have to feel sorry, however; his group is the sole act on the bill. The band’s current tour features music from its latest album, 2019’s “Contemporary.”
The record explores different sounds, instrumentation and grooves no better illustrated than the title track, “Contemporary,” which features electronic synths, hard-hitting rock ’n’ roll guitar, sound clips from the news, and a rap breakdown from the band’s drummer, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin.
At the same time, it still has the band’s usual blend of blues, jazz and roots rock. The song “New Shape” is a tribute to blues artist Junior Parker, a musician who was one of the earliest pioneers of the genre but became a “forgotten Beale Streeter” by the time of his death.
“(‘Contemporary’) is the most fully realized expression of who Rick Estrin & the Nightcats really are and what we’re capable of as a band. Recording at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio, we all had so much fun and were so relaxed, the ideas just started pouring in from all sides,” says Estrin, whose blues harmonica playing also features extensively on the album. “I really expect this record to blow some minds.”
Originally, the group was called Little Charlie & the Nightcats after guitarist Charlie Baty, who retired in 2008. Estrin, Martin, and pianist and organist Lorenzo Farrell carried on the group, adding guitarist Kid Andersen, who Estrin describes as “a fearless nut on guitar.”
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats won Band of the Year honors at the Blues Music Awards in 2018 and 2021. Estrin himself also has won Blues Awards for Song of the Year, Traditional Male Blues Artist and Instrumentalist—Harmonica.
The band’s frontman credits their success with kicking everything up a notch and having an unpredictable, no-holds-barred attitude on stage. Estrin’s signature style of a bright colorful suit and coiffed hair immediately marks him as someone who is excited about sticking out.
“People don’t go out to see people who look like themselves. They want to see something special,” he concludes. “I was schooled in this business to be a showman, and that’s what you get when you come to see us perform.”
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].