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East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

CD image Ricky Nye; Ville du Bois – Ricky Nye In ParisRicky Nye; Ville du Bois – Ricky Nye In Paris
1-2-3 Records, 2008

Ricky Nye (Rick Neiheisel) is an incredible Cincinnati-based, blues-based piano player. He’s been actively playing blues, boogie, jazz and other styles since the late 1980s. Ricky has a wonderful touch on the keys, being able to impart much emotion to his playing. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because unlike guitar or harp or horn, you can’t “bend” notes on a piano. It all has to come from a player’s technical ability and “feel”. Well, Ricky has feel, and vast amounts of technical ability.

Ville du Bois was recorded in Paris, France, basically in the home of the bass player heard on this CD, Thibaut Chopin. All of the band members heard here, with whom Ricky has been playing during his European trips for the past three years, are incredibly sympathetic players. They aren’t Europeans trying to play blues; they are blues-loving players who happen to be European. These cats can play – pay special attention to guitarist Anthony Stelmaszack. You will likely grow to enjoy his playing as much as I did.

The Songs:

1. Walk That Walk: -- This tune is a fun mid-tempo boogie with killer West Coast-style guitar thrown in for good measure. There are lyrics to the tune, but the focus is really Ricky’s piano playing.

2. Ville du Bois: -- This is the title track from the album. If the internet French-to-English translator I used worked correctly, Ville du Bois translates to City of Wood. I thought Paris was the City of Light, but maybe the title refers to the construction material of most of the instruments used on this CD. Or maybe not… Anywho, this instrumental is very nice, another mid-tempo tune (more in a West Coast vibe heard in the late 1940s with Lloyd Glenn or someone) with Ricky playing some sweet runs and with some more of that nice guitar sound heard in the 1st track.

3. Cherry Red: -- This is Nye’s take on an old Big Joe Turner/Pete Johnson tune, done-up very faithfully in the Kansas City jazz/blues style Turner and Johnson played back in the day. It’s a slower song with lots of “feel”, with none of the players being in a hurry. It’s got a laid-back late-night vibe.

4. Going To Cincinnati: -- This tune (credited to “Estes”, although I’ve not been able to confirm if it was Sleepy John Estes or not) is a fitting cover for Ricky, as he is based in Cincinnati. This mid-tempo song has a much more down-home, early electric Chicago blues feel (Rollin’ & Tumblin’?) than any of the previous tracks. It sounds great.

5. Lord Lord Lord: -- This song is one of Nye’s own compositions, and it also has a Chicago blues feel. It’s an up-tempo track, one I can hear someone like Sunnyland Slim knocking out. Once again there’s some fine guitar work here, played in a faithful 1950s style – playing to the song and to the ensemble.

6. If The Rabbit Had A Gun: -- Here’s the 3rd track in a row played in the Chicago blues style. It’s a slow, low-down tune with some nice harmonica backing (played in a Snooky Pryor fashion.) Ricky peels off some very nice runs here. He’s got a great touch and a real feel for this type of material.

7. Little Village: -- Yes, this is the old Sonny Boy 2 song from his Chess records days. There is some harp present, but the focus is really on the ensemble sound. The more I hear from the guitar player the more I like him - very classy and tasteful. The big chords of this song are probably more out-front than any other instrumentation, although the drummer’s brush work sounds mighty fine, too.

8. Nancy Pants / No No: -- We’re in Chicago no more! This tune, or medley of tunes (1st part from Ricky, 2nd from Fats Domino), is from the old New Orleans style. It has a definite ragtime basis, and is heavily syncopated. Ricky does seem to be able to play most any style he wants, and to do it in a convincing, legitimate manner. Piano is the star of this show!

9. Dirty Rag: -- This is a fast moving instrumental track done in a jazzed-up ragtime-ish style. It’s a lot of fun and it gives the rhythm players a chance to stretch out a bit and have a ball.

10. Chicken a la Blues: -- This tune moves us back to more of a late night, after hours feel, similar in feel to one of Memphis Slim’s slower cuts, at least in the instrumental work. Ricky won’t ever be confused with someone like Slim in the vocal department. Ricky works well with what he has, but singing isn’t his strong-suit. However, his playing is “Grade A”! My favorite line from this song – “Saturday we ate scrambled eggs…and you know that’s chicken, too!”

11. CC Rider: -- I’m not sure the World needs another recorded version of this old chestnut, but the band here really plays a nice version of the tune. Ricky plays his piano in a Memphis Slim mode, bringing out the melancholy feel of this song. I’m sure many of us have heard this song so often that we stop listening to it, to why so many players wanted to perform it in the first place. Ricky gives us a good reminder of how good this song really can be.

12. Creole Boogie: -- A set-ending instrumental track, this is a fine way to end the CD - one last boogie woogie piano tune to send us off in style. This track roars along like a barely under control freightliner; it’s still going in a straight line but threatens to break all kind of loose any second!

The Verdict:

I have to admit, in all fairness, that I love piano blues. Mr. Ricky Nye is a heck of a piano player, a master, really. He displays his ability to play many styles on this CD, and he plays them all remarkably well. His singing voice may take some of you awhile to get use to (it took me awhile – my own issues that I will not burden you nor influence you with.) Spend your time focusing on his playing, and on the band’s accompaniment, and you will be well rewarded.

If you like piano players, then this album is for you. If you don’t like piano players, well, we’ll have to get you into some solid blues remedial therapy and see if we can’t cure what ails you (even guitar players don’t listen to guitar players all the time!) For a start, pick up this CD and play it non-stop for 6, no…7 straight plays. Doctor’s orders! STLBluesometer rating for Ricky Nye – Ville du Bois = 4.00, Ricky Nye does play in St. Louis on occasion, usually at Brandt’s in University City if I’m not mistaken. The gigs aren’t usually well publicized, so check out Ricky’s website for upcoming playing dates.

Lee Howland, aka "East Side Slim"
The STLBluesometer

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