Taking  charge

Taking charge

Rick Estrin leads The Nightcats through a blues romp in Arcadia

By Carl Kozlowski 08/30/2012

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Rick Estrin has built a reputation for nearly 35 years as the lead singer and songwriter of the globally popular blues band The Nightcats. Yet it’s only been in the last four years that Estrin has had the chance to really be spotlighted. 
That’s because the ace singer/songwriter and harmonica player took over official leadership of The Nightcats only in 2008, after original founder Little Charlie went into semi-retirement. Since then, Estrin has continued the band’s involvement with top blues label Alligator Records and has stepped up the touring schedule — including a spot this Saturday night headlining the Arcadia Blues Club in support of the group’s new CD, “One Wrong Turn.” 
 
“Something in the music just reached out and grabbed me when I was a kid,” says Estrin, who lives in Sacramento. “My sister had some Jimmy Reed records, and she gave me a Ray Charles record, ‘The Genius Sings the Blues,’ when I was 12, and that was it for me.” 
 
Estrin notes that, despite Little Charlie having his name on the band, he himself was the genuine frontman who wrote the songs, sang and played harmonica with the band. The challenge now is his having to learn how to handle the business side of the group, which he laughingly admits has forced him “to grow up and learn sane adult behavior.”
That maturity has also inspired sharper, more socio-politically pointed lyrics on “One Wrong Turn” as well. But it’s the joy of playing a well-run club like the ABC that really keeps Estrin going. 
 
“I can’t really dictate what I write. The song dictates where it goes; I’m not in charge of that,” he explains. “Like a song I wrote about the Occupy movement, I just look around and it don’t seem real fair, so I thought I’d talk about it. I try to personalize it so it doesn’t sound preachy. You’d think it’s one guy talking about himself, but listen closely and it’s a commentary about the way things are going.” 

Rick Estrin and The Nightcats play at 8 p.m. Saturday at Arcadia Blues Club, 16 E. Huntington Dr., Arcadia. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Call (626) 447-9349 or visit arcadiabluesclub.com.

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