AUBURN – In March of 2005, Sacramento-based blues, swing and jump masters Little Charlie & The Nightcats brought central Maine blues fans to their feet. Led by world-class guitarist Little Charlie Baty and renowned singer/songwriter Rick Estrin, the band entertained a sellout crowd with their energetic fusion of jazz, rock and blues.
Now, with a new album in stores and a 2006 national tour in full swing, the time for a return engagement has arrived. The band will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at the Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant. Little Charlie & The Nightcats are touring in support of their latest album, “Nine Lives,” released in 2005 on Alligator Records. Tickets are $15 and may be reserved by calling the club.
Little Charlie & The Nightcats are not new to the scene, nor are they a modern-day revivalist band attempting to recreate classic songs. They are truly originators, not “copycats.” Their utter mastery of American roots music, from Chicago blues to Texas swing, is fueled by Baty’s jaw-dropping guitar acrobatics and Estrin’s cutting vocals.
Baty first met Estrin in the early 1970s while Baty was a harmonica-playing student at the University of California at Berkeley. Since Estrin was already an accomplished harp player, Baty decided to switch to guitar full time, and the two formed a blues band. After relocating to Sacramento, Baty quickly emerged as a take-no-prisoners, one-of-a-kind guitarist. With the addition of a drummer and a bass player, Little Charlie & The Nightcats were born.
In 1986 the band sent an unsolicited tape to Alligator Records. Alligator President Bruce Iglauer was so impressed, he flew to Sacramento to see the band perform. The show came off perfectly and the band now had a recording contract.
Their debut album, “All The Way Crazy” was released in 1987 and was a huge success. Almost immediately, the band went from playing small Sacramento blues clubs to performing concerts and festivals across the nation and around the world.
The band’s next six albums, 1988’s “Disturbing The Peace,” 1989’s “The Big Break,” 1991’s “Captured Live,” 1992’s “Night Vision,” 1995’s “Straight Up” and 1998’s “Shadow Of The Blues” solidified their reputation as one of the most adventurous and sophisticated blues bands on the planet. Each recording generated rave reviews throughout the blues community.
The band’s latest studio effort, “Nine Lives,” is the ninth album of their remarkable career. It features 13 original songs, including three blistering instrumentals. As on their previous recordings, they combine unsurpassed musicianship and inventive lyrics with their deep understanding of blues and jazz traditions to produce music that is both technically brilliant and soulfully streetwise.
The Associated Press called the album, “Endlessly impressive,” and the San Francisco Examiner proclaimed it, “Marvelously entertaining and brilliantly played.” High praise indeed, but not surprising given the incredible talents and experience this band has to offer.
The Midnight Blues Club and Restaurant is at 34 Court St. All Sunday Night Blues Series shows start promptly at 7 p.m. and conclude at 10 p.m. For more information, go to www.3clubs.com.