Ross Nickerson

Blazing the West

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Ross Nickerson's Blazing the West is an odd little curio on which the noted bluegrass banjo player adapts 13 Western cowboy songs (both traditional folk songs and more recent works in the style like Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose" or Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In") for five-string banjo. The results just sound odd, because the banjo was not a familiar instrument in the American West, where the guitar was the folk instrument of choice, and therefore the tunes sound a bit alien, like punk songs adapted for a string quartet. Nickerson plays very well throughout, as do his accompanists (including the Western swing band Riders in the Sky, who essay the track that inspired their name), but it's difficult to get around the fact that Blazing the West is at its root a flawed idea executed with great skill, making the album a mildly intriguing curio at best.

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