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Rob Ickes with Blue Highway

Big Time – 2004 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Rob Ickes with Blue Highway

Throughout Blue Highway's decade-long tenure as one of the smoothest andmost accomplished bands (instrumentally and vocally) on the bluegrass circuit, Dobro artist Rob Ickes (rhymes with "spikes") has been an integral part of their sound, to the point where more and more often his name is mentioned in the same breath as reso legends Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas. It's not hype. Ickes is legitimately "Big Time," one of the top five or so Dobro pickers around. As the title suggests, his Blue Highway compadres step back a bit and let him move into the spotlight on 13 tracks that are, with the exception of the opener, Danny Kortchmar's "Machine Gun Kelly," all instrumentals.

On his previous solo efforts, Ickes has demonstrated, like Auldridge and Douglas before him, that the Dobro can be taken way beyond the frontiers of bluegrass into jazz and swing, but this sticks mainly to straight-ahead 'grass. There's no cramp on Ickes' style, though, as the variety ranges from high-octane romps like "Lost Indian," to the Celtic-flavored "Ireland, Love Of My Heart," to a version of "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes" that echoes the work of Josh Graves and Pete "Brother Oswald" Kirby. With a standard, open G-chord tuning, many Dobro players tend to avoid minor-key tunes, but Ickes tackles two with intriguing results, "Elzic's Farewell" and "Lonesome Moonlight Waltz."

Ickes is one of the most innovative and satisfying pickers on the scene, and "Big Time" backs it up.