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July/August 2002

Rob Ickes
What It Is
Rounder

A respected dobro player and a member of the bluegrass group Blue Highway, Ickes is closely associated with that genre, but on What It Is he places the dobro in some very unbluegrasslike settings. Sure, the rollicking opening tune, "Mr. Goodbar," possesses a bluegrass feel, but there's a great deal of stylistic variety on this album.

A highly accomplished ensemble joins Ickes: keyboardist John R. Burr, bassist Derek Jones, drummer Kendrick Freeman and saxophonist-bassoonist Paul Hanson. The group joyously captures the brio of John Scofield's composition "I'll Take Les" with a lively jam that includes an extended solo by Hanson, while "Juke Joint" is a soul-jazz romp spiced by Ickes' nimble fingerwork and Burr's organ accents. Ickes observes in the CD notes that his composition "Stanford and Son" reminded him of the classic '70s sitcom Sanford and Son, and Ickes' quirky track captures the funky spirit of that iconic program and its Quincy Jones-penned theme song, "The Streetbeater."

The dobro is also capable of gorgeous lyricism, and its distinctive sound lends particular poignancy to the haunting ballad "Killeen" and the album closer "50 Years Ago," a lovely tribute to his in-laws.

Originally published in July/August 2002
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