No one can accuse Ickes, the multi-award-winning dobro player, of being creatively moribund. His dobro swings with fire and desire here, and on Larry Coryell's "Don't Give It Up" he stirs up enough dust to shake a house. But "California Blues" is a parody of the worst of the Beach Boys and appears inspired by radio.
Ickes, who jump-started his bluegrass career in northern California more than a decade ago and subsequently moved to Nashville, takes several detours on the ablum, stopping to pay tribute to Miles Davis "New Blues" and Herbie Hancock on "Watermelon Man," with the latter tune proving to be an excellent vehicle for the rotating cast of musicians.
Ickes' versatility and melodic inventiveness are front and center on "The Way We Was" and "The Last Polar Bear," though the purest expression of his abilities is on the sparsely arranged "Central Park" and "Be Thou My Vision."
Tim O'Brien gives a tender reading to Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Dwight Blues," a composition by Ickes that swings with rhythmic excitement and features acoustic bassist Derek Jones' walking bass lines and Milt Hinton-like "slaps" to colorful effect.