Blue Highway Dobro monster Rob Ickes is already legendary in bluegrass circles, having won the IBMA Dobro Player of the Year award an astounding ten times (kind of like Michael Phelps without the bong rips). Ickes’ rep has been built on his mind-boggling chops, spot-on intonation, and knack for both accompaniment and soloing. All of those attributes are in full swing on the rough mixes to Road Song that Ickes was kind enough to send to GP, but they are cast in a totally different light. On this, the first release on Ickes’ own label, ResoRevolution, he stretches way out with all new timbres that radically expand the range of his instrument. Carefully placed sitar-style buzzes, rhythmic rattles that almost sound like snares on a drum, and other sound effects make for a cinematic and engaging listen. The tunes themselves also represent something of a departure, with darker jazz colors replacing upbeat bluegrass sounds on several cuts, Michael Alvey’s piano providing a gorgeous backdrop for Ickes’ resonator tones, and vocals by Robinella adding evocative and dreamy textures. Ickes’ playing remains the focal point, and it’s unfailingly deep, expressive, and emotional throughout. Road Song will be out by early May, and it is highly recommended.
This guy is doing for resonator guitars what Jake Shimabukuro does for the uke and what Bela Fleck does for the banjo: He elevates the state of the art in such a startlingly beautiful way that it’s almost impossible to view the instrument the same way ever again. Ickes, like his aforementioned 4- and 5-string brethren, possesses the rare combination of knowing and honoring tradition while simultaneously obliterating all the boundaries imposed by that tradition. Bravo! –Matt Blackett