Ross Nickerson is well known as a banjo instructor. His Banjo Encyclopedia book and multiple DVDs have been used by thousands of students of our beloved 5 string, and his camps and workshops are well attended all over the US (and the 7 seas).
You would expect such a prolific teacher to also be a fine player, and that he is, but so much time is dedicated to offering lessons and running his online business (BanjoTeacher.com) that Ross only rarely has the chance to record.
A new CD has just been released, featuring 14 bluegrass instrumental favorites, with the non-banjo playing members of Blue Highway serving as his rhythm section. He chose as the title, Let’s Kick Some Ass, a phrase he has used to motivate himself for years.
“It’s an expression I’ve used to get the band pumped up before a show. ‘Let’s go out and kick some ass.’ I play my best when my adrenalin is flowing, the same way it did when I played athletics when I was younger. That is really where that comes from I think…football practice. It’s meant to be upbeat and fun, and to say, ‘we are going to get after these songs with everything we have and hold nothing back.’ “
The songs should be familiar to most bluegrass or banjo music fans, coming from the repertoire of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Flatt & Scruggs… and the Gershwin Brothers.
“I wanted the CD to be very up beat. I tried to chose material that I felt we could really dig in to, songs that were straight forward and flowed easily. Many of the songs I knew we would all be familiar with and could play with experience on first take. Although I did cut two originals, and the band played those on the first try every bit as strong as the material they were already familiar with.
From a practical standpoint we cut 14 songs in two days without any rehearsal. That was another thing that I thought would help the overall sound of the CD, a more live approach, not too perfected or watered down. By cutting the songs in the first few takes I think you have a better chance at a CD that feels fresh and sounds real.”
Here are a few samples to give you a taste of Ross’ playing and the spontaneity they captured in the studio.
Old Dangerfield – Listen Now [http://www.rossnickerson.com/soundfiles/KickSomeAssClips/OldDangerfield-clip-RossNickerson.mp3]
RoundHouse – Listen Now [http://www.rossnickerson.com/soundfiles/KickSomeAssClips/RoundHouse-clip-RossNickerson.mp3]
Wheel Hoss – Listen Now [http://www.rossnickerson.com/soundfiles/KickSomeAssClips/WheelHoss-clip-RossNickerson.mp3]
Bringing in a group of pickers who work together regularly certainly added to the smooth, powerful sound. Tim Stafford in on guitar, Shawn Lane on mandolin and fiddle, Rob Ickes on resonator guitar and Wayne Taylor on bass.
“Using Blue Highway was one of the best inspirations I’ve ever had. I have known Rob Ickes since before he moved to Nashville. He and I worked together some out west in the 90’s and he played on my last record. Tim was to be on my last CD too, but we couldn’t line it up, so I wanted to make sure it happened this time. Then it dawned on me that it would not only make scheduling sense but musical sense as well to have the whole band, and I could not be happier with their participation.
I am impressed with the group on every level, musically and personally. Jason Burleson, Blue Highway’s banjo player is a great picker and I appreciated that I could borrow his fellow band members for a couple days. We all just played at the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Ireland last month, Blue Highway as a group and me as a solo act. It gave me an opportunity to get to know them all better.
More audio samples – and online orders and download purchases – can be found on Ross’ web site.