Album Reviews

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches

Very Next Thing

Artist:     Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches

Album:     Very Next Thing

Label:     On the Bol Records

Release Date:     09/30/2016

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It’s apparent that the husband and wife musical team of Nick Russo and Betina Hershey are well versed in a variety of genres. Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches’ latest EP, Very Next Thing, spans a variety of genres, from jazz to folk and blues and ballads. They go back to basics with songs that bask in a genuine roots regimen and a sense of timeless tradition. Jazzy honky tonk and bluegrass reboots of familiar standards such as “You Are My Sunshine,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “When the Red, Red Robin” create a familiarity factor while providing the music with a distinct archival feel. However, it’s the band’s remarkable musical dexterity which makes each of these entries a singular standout.

Russo, a well-regarded New York session player, handles the bulk of the instrumental duties, not surprising given his proficiency on guitar, five string banjo, tenor banjo and resonator guitar. Likewise, the way he freely blends his voice with Betina’s adds an extra dose of homespun allure. So too, percussionist David Pleasant adds a remarkable array of percussion effects along with adding his vocals to the astute harmonies. If it’s true that classical jazz is, at its essence, folk music of the purist variety, then Very Next Thing makes that point clear throughout. Very Next Thing makes it clear that the “thing” in question is equally at home in the past, present and future.

—Lee Zimmerman

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