|Nico Wayne Toussaint is a young French harp player based in Pau, in the south
of France. He has only been playing since his teens, but he's sure been getting the right
lessons and doing the right stuff ! He studied and cut his two albums (reviewed below) in
the US, and he sure sounds like he's coming from there.
playing is very powerful, with a deep tone and a heavy throat vibrato that he often
amplifies through a green bullet and Peavey valve amp. His sound is therefore very fat and
suits his blues style well. Amongst his influences, one can hear James Cotton, RJ Mischo
(with whom he studied in Minneapolis) and most of the West Coast harp players (Rod Piazza,
William Clarke, Kim Wilson, etc.)
I wouldn't say that Nico's repertoire is the most original one. But what
he does, he does really well, and with an energy and enthusiasm that many players twice
his age lack. On top of that, Nico can really sing, and isn't amongst those harp players
we hear too often who feel they have to sing even though they're not suited for it.
As far as Frenchness goes, I wouldn't say there is much of that in
Nico's stuff. He sings one or two songs in French, but his style and repertoire mainly
point at someone who has found the original blues sound and loves it. Although I really
like his current releases, I hope that as he matures Nico widens his horizons in musical
style and approach so that when he's 40 he plays and sings with as much enthusiasm as he
does today. He certainly has enough talent to do just that...
You can contact Nico's agent if you're interested at the
following address and phone number :
(+33) 6 82 95 24 08
If you wish to mail-order his CD, I have found a site in the Netherlands which seems
to carry it.
Wayne Toussaint - My Kind of Blues (Dixiefrog)
This CD is very much in a West Coast Blues vein akin to what people like
Rod Piazza or Paul Lamb release, but with a much fresher rendition in my opinion. For a
start, Nico's voice is melodious and can be very emotional when needed, but he doesn't use
that in excess. What's more, Nico's harp playing is not 'systematic' but used only when it
brings something to the whole sound. There are several tracks on the album where Nico
doesn't play harp, and I think that shows quite a bit of taste.
The choice of material isn't very varied and it's certainly strongly anchored in the blues
tradition. The interpretation though is enjoyable and the band seems to be having fun,
something which isn't always obvious when listening to many albums today. Nico sings two
tracks in French (not my favourite) and the rest is in English. I'd like to point out that
although Nico's French accent does transpire in his elocution, it's very mild and
therefore more charming than annoying.
Exceptional tracks are James Cotton's 'West Helena Blues', very rough and powerful, Nico's
own 'Barbara', a slow blues with a smoking harp solo on the outro, a very sensual
rendition of 'Fever', and a rocking 'Cheaper to keep her' where Nico shows his 3rd
position stuff. More than half the material is original and interestingly written.
All in all, I really like this album. If I had one criticism, it would be towards the lead
guitarist whose playing is sometimes very sloppy (maybe it's deliberate, but if that's the
case, I don't like it !) If you like your blues harp with a heavy, go for it, you won't be
Wayne Toussaint - C'est si bon (NR-0005)
Although I wouldn't say this CD is as good as the second one (reviewed
above) it's still pretty good. The general context is similar : cut in the US with a crew
of american players. There isn't much more to say except that the French accent here is
stronger and at times annoying (certain rhymes will make English speaking natives
chuckls... They only work with a French accent !)
The contents are based on traditional blues, with a good rendition of 'Got my Mojo
Working' and several covers of Howling Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, James Cotton, Otis
Spann, etc. A good mix of slow blues and rocking numbers makes this album a good listen
even if it isn't as accomplished a 'My Kind of Blues'. Nico's heavy sound is there though,
and that alone's got to be worth something...