BANJO NICKARU: New Album June 15 + 15 Folk Alliance International Showcases

February 7, 2018 by 1888media


New York City’s Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches are likely the only band today infusing elements of Gullah-Geechee and world rhythms with folk traditions, Americana, New Orleans influences, and 1920s jazz.

The forthcoming sophomore album, Get Us Out Of Fearland, due June 15, builds upon the multicultural exuberance that made the band’s debut, Very Next Thing, a transcendent breath of fresh air. Elmore Magazine championed its “remarkable musical dexterity with songs that bask in a genuine roots regimen and a sense of timeless tradition,” and revered tastemaker station WFUV said, “This is a band that must be heard to be believed!”

“These powerful and strong influences for our band bring spiritual energy to our shows,” says co-founder/musician Nick Russo. “My musical life has always been surrounded by an eclectic combination of unique musicians and scenes. So naturally, this band is a melting pot of many different cultures, genres, instruments, and sounds. My dream is that people of all races and origins live, play, and share all our different world musics and cultures together as one united race, without fear – one love!”

Although the band’s debut featured an “unfailingly high-spirited” mix of traditional fare culled from various cultures, the new nine-track opus showcases mostly original material. The one cover included is a lively rendition of “A Hundred Miles,” the rollicking fiddle-fueled train tune from the 1800s.

The other eight songs were penned by vocalist Betina Hershey, who says, “Songs are always pouring out of me. Some I catch, and some slip out past my lips and float away. With the help of a cast of music mates, these songs linger so beautifully, with textures that I hadn’t even imagined.”

Highlights of Get Us Out Of Fearland include the playful 1920s verve of “I Don’t Need No Glasses,” the warm lilting embrace of “I Wish The World Knew Why,” the organ-driven, gospel-tinged “Dandelion” (featuring special guest vocalists, Stephanie Rice and Charenee Wade), and “Soar,” an inspirational song filled with optimism, determination, and perseverance.

These qualities sail skyward throughout the 25-minute journey, but none more so than on the boisterous groundbreaking title track, which features improvisational vocalist Miles Griffith, known for his work with Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, Paul Simon, and Reggie Workman, and percussionist/vocalist, Dr. David Pleasant, a singular talent who has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Cecil Taylor, and Paul Simon.

To support the lead-up to the release of Get Us Out Of Fearland, Russo and Hershey, along with accomplished percussionist Emiliano Valerio, who appears in four songs on the album, will play 15 showcases at the world-renowned Folk Alliance International Conference, which celebrates its 30th anniversary, Feb. 14-18, in Kansas City, MO.

Last year, the group was a breakthrough act, receiving a special on-the-spot invitation to open the main stage of the Kansas City Folk Festival on the final day of the conference.

(Westin Crown Center, Kansas City, MO)

Wednesday, Feb. 14
The Paul Geremia Traditional Music Room (645) — 10:30-11pm
More LilFest, Room 728 — 11:30pm-12am
MPress Records, Room 641 — 12-12:25am

Thursday, Feb. 15
More LilFest, Room 728 — 11:30pm-12am
Krazy Keyboards, Room 608 — 12-12:30am
The Warming House Minnesota Room (634) — 1:30-1:45am

Friday, Feb. 16
Kansas City Live, KSHB-TV (Channel 41) — 10:00am
More LilFest, Room 728 — 11:30pm-12am
Access Film Music (Green), Room 629 — 12:30-12:55am
Bliss Hippy Room (638) — 1:30-2am
Green Room Music Source, Room 612 — 2:35-3am

Saturday, Feb. 17
Access Film Music (Green), Room 629 — 11:30-11:55pm (backing Mara Levine)
Access Film Music (Green), Room 629 — 12-12:25am
Omega Delta Psi, Room 734 — 1:30-1:55am
Bliss Hippy Room (638) — 2:30-3am
Brett Perkins Listening Room (649) — 3-3:30am

“Unfailingly high-spirited.” London Times

“This is a band that must be heard to be believed!” WFUV

“Americana music at its purest and most impressive.” No Depression

“It’s unlike anything most listeners will find elsewhere.” San Diego Troubadour

“Remarkable musical dexterity with songs that bask in a genuine roots regimen and a sense of timeless tradition.” Elmore Magazine


Nick Russo leads the charge as bandleader, playing an assortment of fretted instruments, including banjo, resonator, guitar, electric bass plus organ, Rhodes and harmonium. Russo had the honor to play with Sir Paul McCartney while performing at Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s home. Nick has performed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and appears in the Sam Mendes film Away We Go and PSB Masterpiece, The Chaperone.

Betina Hershey (vocalist, guitarist, composer) has appeared as a principal dancer in Disney’s Enchanted and Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts. Hershey performed on international and national tours of Broadway shows including “West Side Story” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Betina’s in-demand original children’s musicals have been published and continuously performed nationally and internationally.

Emiliano Valerio (cajón/percussion) is a highly regarded musician who studied Afro-Cuban percussion at La Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba before further  training with Puerto Rican jazz great Giovanni Hidalgo. He also founded Nueva Siembra, a 15-piece Latin band, composed Jackson Heights Suite, for string quartet, was musical director/percussionist/guitarist for the OBIE Award winning Off-Broadway show Tap Dogs, and is a tabla disciple of virtuoso Pandit Samir Chatterjee.

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