This CD review was originally published in the December 27, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at thebluesblast.com
When Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band’s latest CD arrived, I noticed that it was recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I was reminded of all of the great bands that have come out of that city. In fact, one of my favorite bands from the 1980s, The Raisins, is from there, and it turns out that Ricky Nye is actually Rick Neiheisel, their keyboardist. What a small world!
Whatever name he goes by, Ricky is a fabulous keyboard player and singer, having done quite a bit of work over the years with various artists and leading his own bands, including Ricky Nye and the Red Hots, and Ricky Nye Inc. Ricky Nye & the Paris Blues Band is his latest group, and Jump Steady is their third studio release. Collaborating with Mr. Nye on this album are three Frenchmen: Anthony Stelmaszack on guitars, Thibaut Chopin on upright bass and harmonica, and Simon "Shuffle" Boyer on drums; they have been working with Ricky for over five years. Special guest Brian "Boss" Hogg from Kentucky also joins in on the saxophone.
Nye self-produced Jump Steady, which was recorded in just two sessions; Bill Gwynne engineered the album and it was mixed by Ashley Shepherd. It has twelve short tracks (all of them under four minutes each), and they can be lumped into a two different categories: classic boogie woogie and more straight-up piano driven blues. This should not be a shock to anyone, as the group’s name does say that this is a blues band…
Ricky chose some heavy-hitting cover tunes and also wrote four of the songs on this album, including the opener, “Rockin’ Roller Coaster.” This song sets the tone for the rest of the CD, letting the listener know that they are in for a good time. Ricky hammers out a piano line that is lively but technically better than anything you will hear in a bar room. Hogg’s saxophone is a nice counterpoint to the whole Jerry Lee Lewis vibe, and at a mere 2 ½ minutes in length this one made me sorry it ended so soon.
Big Boy Crudup’s “Mean Ol’ Frisco” is next up, and you are probably familiar with the cover version that was done by Eric Clapton. Nye and the guys sped this tune up quite a bit and did an admirable job, despite the big shoes they had to fill. Then the tempo throttles back for the straight-up blues of “But I Forgive You,” which is a true song of love and forgiveness, considering all the terrible things the subject of this song is accused of doing.
“New Orleans Murder” does indeed have a Crescent City feel, with a funereal pace and a spooky sounding tape delay guitar sound. Stelmaszack does a very smooth and tasteful job on the guitars, and this original tune is a real winner. Another Ricky Nye original, “I Ain’t Crazy” follows this one up, and we are treated to some lovely syncopated piano work with a little harmonica flavor on top. This two-minute instrumental is really neat, and I will surely be using it to set the mood for one of my upcoming parties.
Nye and the boys then proceed to lay down some rocking boogie woogie for the next four tracks. Bassist Thibaut Chopin brings some neat harmonica parts to the Delmore Brothers’ “Pan American Boogie” and Nye gets a workout for both hands in Pinetop Smith’s instrumental “Jump Steady Blues.”
“Buggy Ride” is the last Ricky Nye original (and another instrumental), and it truly sounds like it is from another age. As with the rest of the album, Shuffle Boyer does a rock steady job on the drums for this track. We also get a great version of Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” and I am glad that Nye did not feel compelled to copy the original version of this song (or any of the covers), but rather played it in his own style.
To finish up the CD, the band serves up three classic blues songs: Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” the classic (and very dirty) “Honey Dripper Blues,” and Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sittin’ On Top of the World.” And these wisely chosen covers cement the fate of Jump Steady – this is a fabulous album! Ricky Nye put together a collection of twelve unique songs, and each one is short enough to leave the listener wanting more. I highly recommend that you check it out when you get a chance!