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Little Charlie & the Nightcats,
John Hammond

@ Fine Line Music Café, April 1, 1998
by Ann Wickstrom

John Hammond
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling
All rights reserved
It may have been April Fools' night, but I am not joking when I say that The Fine Line was THE place to be on this Wednesday evening.

Little Charlie & the Nightcats played on Hammond's last two albums, but until this night they had not shared the stage for about six months. The show started off with a solo acoustic set from Hammond, who seemed to have the lion's share of fans there. Long, lanky and lean as always, Hammond took us way down to the Delta with some finger-picking, slide, harp and vocals that just poured out of him, dripping with feeling. This was blues in its purest form, played the way it's supposed to be played. Hammond is one of those guitar players who manages to extend his licks to the point where you wonder how he's going to fit it all in and still come out on the other side without throwing off the timing.

Other than a mid-song tuning problem (which was handled on the fly in a very professional manner), the set was just wonderful. Many tunes were in the key of E, typical of the style being played. It didn't take long to realize that this is a man who lives, breathes, and sleeps the blues- 24-7.

Charlie Baty
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling
All rights reserved
The second set was all Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Charlie Baty was the man I came to see, and words really can't describe what a joy it was to watch him play and spend some time visiting with him before and after the show. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Charlie is the difference in sound between his Gibson and his Strat playing. It's not just two different guitars; it sounds like two different people playing them. When he plays the Charlie Christian-style tunes he uses a hollow body Gibson re-issue, and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE, swings it harder! His hands become a flurry of activity on the fretboard, and I saw more than a few jaws dropping on this night.

Wild and crazy front man (harp, vocals) Rick Estrin was dressed to kill as usual, sporting a black and white pin-striped suit with black shirt, striped tie, and black and white wing tips. He charmed and entertained the crowd with his silly on-stage antics and stories within a song, at one point straddling Ronnie James Weber's stand-up bass as Weber played it practically upside down. Fans got to get in on the fun as the drummer led them in chants of "Dump That Chump!" during the song of the same name. Other crowd favorites included Smart Like Einstein, The Booty Song (I Love to Watch You Walk Away), and Clothes Line, which generated a lot of amusement-especially among those who had never heard it before.

The Nightcats. Photo © 1998 by Ray Stiles. All rights reserved.
Hammond came back out and joined the 'Cats for the last set, handling the vocal duties and and playing a Strat. It included some blues classics such as Little Walter's As Long As I Have You.

This show was just a blast and I will remember it for a very long time.

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ann Wickstrom, all rights reserved.

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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.