Nico Wayne Toussaint

Pour obtenir cette page en Franšais...

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.

His 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 :

Nicolas Toussaint
Villa Louisiana
(+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.

Nico 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 disappointed !


Nico 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...