Rhythm Bomb Records RBR 5844
13 songs – 42 minutes
Frenchman Nico Duportal might be relatively unknown in America despite his recent work with the Mannish Boys and in the past with late Lynwood Slim, but this album will put a smile on your face as proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s a name to be reckoned with when it comes to modern jump blues.
Growing up in the Paris suburbs, he played flute in school, but fell in love with American music when his father frequently played Ray Charles tunes after returning home in the morning from an all-night job. Years later, as a teen, he picked up the six-string while living with his stepfather, who worked in an instrument shop. Completely self-taught, Duportal immersed himself in the music of the ’30s through ’60s — everything from R&B and country to rockabilly and Western swing, and — later — the blues stylings of the West Coast.
He credits harp player Lynwood Slim, aka Richard Duran — to whom this CD is dedicated, along with Candye Kane and others — with helping him to refine his vocal stylings. He and his Rhythm Dudes tour regularly across Europe, delivering their own brand of rhythm-and-blues, making occasional forays to the U.S. His distinctive guitar sound comes courtesy of pickups handmade in France to duplicate the sound of a ’57 Fender Stratocaster or Gibson P-90.
Dealing With My Blues features Nico on guitar and vocals, backed by Alex Bertein and Sylvain Tejerizo on baritone and tenor saxes, Olivier Contrelle on keyboards, Pascal Mucci on drums, and Thibaut Chopin on upright bass, all of whom provide backing vocals. Making a guest appearance on one cut is harmonica player Benoit Blues Boy.
From the first notes of the opener, “Don’t You See,” the all-original set comes across with a definite upbeat, old-time feel and will have your feet tapping and your body heading to the dance floor. It’s a plea for a method to get the woman of the singer’s desire to love him the way he loves her. Duportal’s vocals are warm and strong with only the slightest of accents. The propulsive “I Know The Rules” insists “I’ve got a rocket in my pocket/Mama, let’s get loose” as it carries the message forward.
A syncopated drumbeat and a low-register, single-note guitar solo introduce “Now Hush,” which relates that the singer’s shy and doesn’t want to be bothered by someone who won’t stop talking. The mid-tune solos open on keyboards and switch to guitar. Another interesting rhythm pattern and chorded guitar riffs open “The One To Blame,” about admitting mistakes in romance, while “I Will Unfriend You” is an uptempo pleaser that deals with the incursion of unwelcome remarks on a Facebook page. In this one, the “friend” who wants to marry Duportal turns out to be an ugly guy instead of a woman.
“Mess And Chaos,” a tender, deliberate ballad about building walls in relationships, follows before things heat up again for a swinging, Chicago-flavored instrumental blues, “Benzola Ascensor,” with Benoit Blues Boy riffing throughout on chromatic. Duportal’s got his suitcase packed, ready to leave a lover and town, in “Sometimes,” but wonders if he should stay and work things out. Apparently, he does, if the following jump tune with an extended guitar solo, “Brand New Day,” is true in its request for a reunion.
Next up, Duportal recounts awaking in the morning to a drum beat in “Junior’s Mambo.” Another ’60s flavored, horn-driven instrumental, “Soul Patch,” follows before “Long Way To Go,”a promise not to tarry on the way home — after a couple of shots of “the real raw stuff.”The CD finishes with a bonus cut, an acoustic version of “Mess And Chaos.”
Available through iTunes and other major online retailers, Dealing With My Blues might not be your style if you’re a gutbucket traditionalist. But if you like jump, swing and rockabilly, this one’s definitely right for you.