@BanjoNickaru & Western Scooches
Get Us Out of Fearland – 2018 (Self-released)
Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman
For those who have followed their progress until now, it ought to be apparent that Nick Russo and Betina Hershey, the husband/wife duo best known as Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, aren't content to be confined to any particular genre. As their excellent new album, "Get Us Out of Fearland," easily attests, they ably mine vintage trappings with an eye towards contemporary credence. Folk, jazz, Americana, blues and ballads all find a place in their merry mash-up of sounds and styles.
Indeed, within the expanse of a mere nine songs, the duo and their able compatriots run a gamut from the rousing tones of the aptly titled "Soar" to the sheer exhilaration and gospel-like revelry of "Needed Now" and the title track, with a ready retreat into the acoustic arrangements and supple slide guitar that grace "I Wish the World Knew Why" and "Don't You Follow Me." Then for good measure, they retrace the traditional trappings of the solitary standard "A Hundred Miles" as if to prove the point. Russo, a seasoned session player in their native New York, handles the majority of the music, modestly credited on the cover as "fretted instruments and more." For her part, Hershey - who pens all the original material - comes across as the ideal chanteuse, with just the right blend of sass and sophistication to provide more than ample to the proceedings. No wonder then that the group sound so consistently confident in every outing they offer.
The other factor that helps assure success is personified by percussionist David Pleasant, who adds rhythms and vocals to the freewheeling finesse. Ultimately it all adds up to a celebratory sound, one that's free-spirited and enthusiastically employed. Indeed, when taken in tandem, "Get Us Out of Fearland" amounts to one of the most exhilarating efforts imaginable.