Album Review

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches Retrace the Roots

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches - Very Next Thing

Veteran musicians Nick Russo and Betina Hershey are well versed in a variety of instruments and musical genres, from jazz to folk to blues and ballads. So it’s especially significant that on their band Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches’ latest EP, Very Next Thing, they go back to basics. In truth, with ten songs, this is much more of an album than an EP, with songs that bask in roots and 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” flesh out the familiarity factor while giving the entire set an archival feel. However, it’s the band’s instrumental dexterity which makes each of these entries a singular standout regardless, Russo, a much in demand session player, takes on the bulk of the playing 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 wife Betina’s adds an extra dose of homespun allure. As one pundit noted, classical jazz is, at its essence, folk music of the purist variety, and Very Next Thing illustrates that in a way that the less skilled would be hard pressed to emulate. Ultimately, this is Americana music at its purest and most impressive, making it indeed a lesson for the learning.