Big Nick & the Cydecos
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Big Nick & the Cydecos

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The best kept secret in music


"Born Half Wild"

As Published in "Offbeat" - New Orleans' and Louisiana's Music Magazine - Oct. 3, 2000

Big Nick and the Cydecos
Born Half Wild

As we know, the accordion weaves a thread of unity through a multitude of seemingly
unrelated music genres: conjunto and Tex Mex, Irish and Scottish, Klezmer and Arab,
Argentinean and even Chinese music. Each culture has attempted to individualize the
instrument (in all its incarnations and types) by applying wildly descriptive names to it:
Folk/blues legend Leadbelly called it a windjammer. The Zulus call it a squashbox.
Mark Twain called it "the stomach Steinway." In Germany, it has been scathingly
referred to as "the pig-organ."

The point is that there are truly are not many musical borders on the planet any longer.
Tom Nickel (Big Nick) understands all this and has done his homework very well. He
started Big Nick and Cydecos in 1995 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with veteran drummer
Cy Costabile (whose name inspired the deliberate misspelling of the band's moniker)
after picking up a used accordion at a Goodwill store. He began to explore the
instrument's history and possibilities beyond his indigenous knowledge, polka music, and
very quickly discovered and fell in love with the spicy, good time fun of Cajun and
zydeco music. He then gathered adventurous local talent around him and became the
area's top proponent of Louisiana roots music. On this, their second CD, they focus
primarily on zydeco and French traditional with a smattering of accordion-driven R&B
thrown in.

The band members' combined talent and dedication to authenticity give this CD the
requisite high caliber chops to pull this off. Lesser musicians would have succumbed to
rote imitation, but this group customizes tunes to fit their own unique talents. But what
makes it really work is the obvious fun they're having while playing. Nickel leads the
romp with more than passable accordion, button box, guitar and piano and handles a good
deal of the vocal work while Mark Paffrath weaves in and around on violin and mandolin
and shares singing duties. Thad Saucedo holds down the bottom on bass while Costibile
provides rhythm and drive on drums. Sounding like a punk Rosie Ledet, singer Kelli
Murphy completes the lineup and contributes some mean rubboard and triangle as well.

Ex-Bruce Hornsby bassist, Joe Puerta, produced the CD at Milwaukee's Old Post Office
Studio. What drew him to the project was the chance to experiment with such an
interesting mix of talent, sounds and personalities to create an unabashedly impure and
multi-dimensional sound. "It's unpretentious and hits the soul," he remarked. Because
the band's sound is not easily pidgeon-holed, Puerta came up with his own description -
he calls the sound "Modeco," a combination of Motown and Zydeco.

This CD contains an interesting and fun mixture of tunes covering classic rock 'n roll,
soul, R&B, traditional French songs and originals by such heavyweights as Chuck Berry
and Fats Domino to Canray Fontenot and C.J. Chenier. Kelli Murphy shines on
Fontenot's "Allons Danser" and deftly handles Rosie Ledet's tune "Girl Like Me."
Nickel's no slouch in the song-writing category either and his title tune paints some dark
imagery with the words "She got a monkey tail, black cat bone, dead man's picture that
she had known, no regard to the life she's forged, smoke and cuss and curse the Lord."

Purists, of course, may summarily dismiss Born Half Wild for not fitting the parameters
of "pure" Cajun or zydeco music but that's their loss. Big Nick & the Cydecos can match
the musicianship of many of Louisiana's own and what they may lack in geographical
authenticity they make up for by delivering a fun, danceable, and feel-good collection of
excellent songs.

To purchase this CD, visit Big Nick & the Cydecos' website at or at

--Kathleen A. Rippey
- As Published in "Offbeat" - New Orleans' and Louisiana's Music Magazine - Oct. 3, 2000


samples at
Honey Bee (CD)
Born Half Wild (CD)
Big Nick Picnic (CD)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Big Nick’s music has developed out of a passion for the timeless music of South West Louisiana.
The band's sound and repertoire has evolved over the years through countless visits to Louisiana and studying under the masters such as Steve Riley, Dirk Powell, and Christine Balfa.
Big Nick blends his own heritage with that of LA to kindle yet another incantation of Cajun and Zydeco music that delights crowds in the Midwest.
The band features the powerful bluesy vocals of Kelli Brown and, outstanding vocalists in their own right, brothers John and Mike Sieger.
John has successfully published many of his own compositions that have been performed by the likes of Etta James and others.