What can you say about Charlie Baty and the boys? This is their ninth record for Alligator since the late ’80s, and the mix of blues, swing, and everything in-between continues to be about as much fun as you can have listening to music.
Fun is a big part of the equation. For example, the lead cut, “Keep Your Big Mouth Shut” is a hard, horn-driven soul-blues. Singer/harpist Rick Estrin lays down a lyric that we all can identify with as to when other people should, shall we say, use a little discretion. Charlie’s fills are right on the money, and by the time he’s done with a biting, old-school solo, we’ve already taken a roller coaster ride. The same could be said for the majority of the cuts here. “Cool Johnny Twist” features music to match the title’s main character. An almost beatnik-ish walking bass gives way to big-time rock and roll guitar by Baty. “Got to Have a Job” is pretty much quintessential Nightcats. A rhumba-blues with a very funny lyric, typical shaky-jake Estrin vocal, and a fine solo from Baty are key elements to not only this song, but many of their best through the years. There are a few instrumentals too that let the boys show their muscle. “Tag (You’re It)” swings hard and lets Charlie show off his jazz skills. “Wall To Wall” is a shuffle with Estrin and Baty soloing furiously. And “Slap Happy” is a fun tune that very successfully mixes surf music and the blues.
Little Charlie and the Nightcats are playing and writing as well as ever. Drop the needle (or laser beam) anywhere, and you’re bound to hear something you like, and guitar playing that will amaze you.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.