Drom NYC Album Release Quotes

“Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches brings Cajun Jazz, Blues, Gospel, and Americana roots together in a way that inspires an emotional reaction. I’ve seen a million live shows, and Banjo Nickaru is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen; up there with early Springsteen, early Counting Crows, and Langhorne Slim.” – industry veteran Pat O’Connor.

“I’m so impressed! They really took it to another level. Live these guys are extraordinary. It’s just magical, the proficiency and the expertise. Getting up on stage with them at the end for that Finale was like going to church! It was pretty cool!” – Rob Morrow, Emmy/Golden Globe nominated actor, and opening act.

“Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches are a refreshing celebration of music, culture and artistic expression, a soul-replenishing revival that will boldly carry us out of Fearland and into heaven.” – Rob Evanoff

“The energy in the room, playing with almost every single musician who recorded on the album with us, this was something powerful for me. The opening acts really added to the warmth and thrill of the evening, and so did our friends in the audience, both old and newly formed, right then and there. I could feel their support. Whew! What a night!” – Betina Hershey, songwriter and singer

Celebrating their new album “Get Us Out of Fearland” which No Depression dubbed, “Americana music at its purest and most impressive,” this was the first time all of the musicians on the album had a chance to gather together, their combined energy and styles creating unique moments for each song. The show started with singer Betina Hershey, banjoist Nick Russo, and percussionist David Pleasant playing acoustically through the audience and onto the stage with a song reminiscent of the 1920s and New Orleans.

Other unique moments included the power of “Dandelion,” with Hershey’s soaring vocals and the aching and celebratory gospel vocals of Stephanie Rice and Miles Griffith singing “break down that wall!” “Run,” dedicated to victims of gun violence, featured the core duo with Hershey’s light fingerpicking and Russo’s banjo played as a drum. The band’s rollicking rendition of “A Hundred Miles,” a train tune from the 1800s, featured fiddle veteran Kenny Kosek. Closing the show, Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches brought up everyone from the entire night, along with special guests, for their sing-a-long “Park Song” and “This Little Light Of Mine” with David Pleasant’s Gullah-Geechee rhythms and shouts rising above.

Opening acts included singer-songwriter Devon, accompanied by her brother Christian, a warm pair, who previewed songs from her forthcoming EP, Songs From The Back of A Bar, followed by Morrow, who treated the appreciative audience to a half dozen songs, including his new single, “The New, New Face” before asking Russo to join him on a spirited take of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”


October of 2016 Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches flew out to Lexington, Kentucky, traveling as a trio, to perform on the live taping of WoodSongs.

WoodSongs is a worldwide multi-media celebration of grassroots, Americana music. Get ready to explore the beautiful world of folk, bluegrass, songwriting, new artists, literature, worldwide radio, television and concerts, hosted each Monday at 6:45 pm at the historic Lyric Theatre!

Hear Kai Kater, a lovely brother sister team, and then Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches as a trio with Nick Russo on banjo, Betina Hershey on vocals and guitar, and David Pleasant adding his Gullah-Geechee percussion.

Listen to the broadcast here.


WFUV On Your Radar

Check out our live version of Freight Train on WFUV.

Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches is a most unusual NYC band.” – John Platt

We love WFUV! I’m a NYC girl, born in Manhattan, raised in Queens, and I’ve always listened to WFUV and John Platt. I got to play on WFUV for John Platt once before. I sang harmony on some Jack Hardy tunes and played some of my own before the 20th Anniversary of Fast Folk concert at the Bottom Line.

This time I was the with my husband Nick Russo as a part of our project Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches.

We played on Sunday April 9th on Supper Sunday, and John Platt was such a delight. He really loves music, is full of knowledge and questions, and has such a warmth.

Then the following Tuesday April 11th John Platt had us as part of his On The Radar series at Rockwood Music Hall.

What a treat!

And here’s what John wrote about us…


Betina Hershey

Banjo Nickaru and “Sunday Supper” host John Platt (photo by Jeremy Rainer)


Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches is a most unusual NYC band. Led by banjo/guitar player Nick Russo and singer-songwriter Betina Hersey, they have an appetite for all kinds of music: folk, blues, country, 1920s and ’30s pop and jazz, and roots music in general, expressed in both originals and cover songs.

Their real wild card is a Gullah-Geechee accent brought by percussionist David Pleasant. Pleasant wasn’t with them for this visit to Studio A, but they did bring veteran percussionist Newman Taylor -Baker on washboard and Neal Murgai on sitar.

Listen to what they add to Elizabeth Cotton’s classic “Freight Train.” This is a band that must be heard to be believed! Check them out in this fun session or at Rockwood Music Hall on April 11 for “On Your Radar.”


Live Video of Great Big House

Extended Play Sessions,”An authentic blend of New Orleans jazz, Piedmont blues, Gullah Geechee rhythm and New York sass, Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches brought down the house at The Extended Play Sessions Fallout Shelter earlier this month. Nick Russo is the brainchild behind this and host of other projects that combine this nimble quartet with authentic American Roots styles. Betina Hersey handles the vocals with some scat backing from Miles Griffith. Featuring percussionist David Pleasant on the Gullah Geechee drum kit.”

Extended Play Sessions invites bands to perform at an invitation-only live setting with the aim of video taping the whole show and then sharing with the world. Thanks so much, Extended Session! You made us so welcome. We loved our time there!

–  Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches (Nick, Betina, Miles, David)

‘Great Big House in New Orleans’ – Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches – From The Extended Play Sessions from The Extended Play Sessions on Vimeo.




David Amram talks about Banjo Nickaru

“Just a few words about Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches, an amazing group which a lot of us dreamed would happen some day where the different genres of music all get together and they all fit together because everybody is great at their genre and also has the ability to be with the other genres in harmony. That’s what they call making music.

Great gourmet cooking and great music is made when things are combined in a beautiful, nutritious, soulful way. It’s not cross over because there is no place to cross over in music you’re already there if you’re a real musician. People listening, being creative, and always wanting to combine what you’ve been gifted with with others, and this group does that. Without any retoric, what Stravinsky said, “Music expresses itself,” and when you hear them, you’ll be blown away.

It’s an answer to a lot of people from an older generation, which is myself since I’m turning 86, dreaming that some day all of these musics would be together. That’s what Charlie Parker told me he would hope to hear, someday, when I was doing my symphony music and trying to play jazz horn, that all music would come together. Bud Freeman, a great saxophone player from the 20’s, before he passed away told me that he hoped all musicians would find a common ground. Any group that does that deserves appreciation and attention and respect.

And I think this group will open up the doors for people who love bluegrass, Gullah-Geechee, African, African American, scat singing, improvising, traditional fold music of the past, all combining to make some great, classical, sincere, built-to-last music from the heart for today.

They played up a storm! They are terrific. And anybody could come. This is the kind of thing that you could bring your 5 year old child and your Great Grandmother and everyone will dig it. Just a joy to hear you, play with you. I recommend everyone come to hear this group wherever they are, and get their CD.”
– David Amram

We met David Amram at NERFA 2016. David, 86, with a twinkle in his eye, a friend of Charlie Parker and more, and a deep love of music of all traditions, joined us in the lobby and at two of our showcases, talked about us in his discussion about folk music and history, and recorded this testimonial which I transcribed about the deep value of our group. Thanks David! We love the light you shine, your open mind, and your deep love and curiosity for music!


Reviews and Fun Links

We’ve had so much going on this September and October! Here are just a few…

Recent Reviews:

San Diego Troubadour Hershey’s “I Don’t Believe in Love” full of double entendre and good humor, is the best track here. While the disc is full of elaborate arrangements, the band sounds best when just guitar, banjo, and Hershey’s arresting vocal takes on a classic like “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Tracks like “Freight Train” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” are mostly notable for Hershey’s clear-as-a-bell swing jazz vocals.
Acoustic Live (cd reviews are at the bottom of the page) “This album is an intriguing mash-up of old-timey, bluegrass and banjo-driven Dixieland, with even a touch of Calypso thrown in. If you like high-intensity, upbeat versions of standards, this is for you.” Richard Cuccaro, Acoustic Live!
No Depression “Ultimately, this is Americana music at its purest and most impressive, making it indeed a lesson for the learning.”
Classical Arts “This slice of sumptuousness, replete with oodles of Prohibition Era cakewalks, spans the gamut from jazzbo flapper dance tunes and traditional folk hoots’n’hollers to Crescent City craziness, Fats Waller (Ain’t Misbehavin'”), gospel (“This Little Light Of Mine”), Elizabeth Cotton (“Freight Train”) and the kind of honeyed originals that makes one move and tickles one pink. This, then, is the Very Next Thing
TrailMix (our song, and a whole bunch of new music to discover)
What an honor to be interviewed by Artie Martello on Mostly Folk