The Scooches at Folk Alliance International

The Scooches are heading to Folk Alliance International 2023 as a trio with Betina Hershey (vocals/guitar/composition), Nick Russo (guitar/banjo/arrangements), and Miles Griffith (vocals/scatting).

“a band that has to be seen to be believed,” says John Platt (WFUV radio, NYC)

They have been to Folk Alliance International before, and loved it. Usually attending as a trio, when they tour closer to NYC they often play as a quartet, or even larger. They even play duo, but with a name like The Scooches, the group is all about merging many musical styles, led by Nick Russo’s musical vision and Betina Hershey’s poetic lyrics and compositions, so the more the merrier. Bandmates range from Surinam to Gullah Sea Islands to NYC and everywhere in between.

“…an amazing group which a lot of us dreamed would happen some day where the different genres of music all get together…” says David Amram.

The first time Betina Hershey (vocals/guitar/composition), Nick Russo (guitar/banjo/arrangements), and David Pleasant (Gullah-geechee percussion, tambourine, stomping) were honored to play live on local radio and on the main stage for Kansas City Folk Fest as well. The second time Betina, Nick and Emiliano Valerio (percussion) performed live on TV as part of KC Spotlight.

This time the group is bringing Miles Griffith (appears on Wynton Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields), bringing new tunes from the upcoming album Lift You Up.

There are 6 showcases you can attend.

Enjoy a 20 or 25 minute set:

WEDNESDAY NIGHT Feb 1 into Thursday morning: 12:30am-12:50am –20 min set – Janet’s Planet – Room 637
THURSDAY NIGHT Feb 2: 10:30PM-10:55pm – 25 min set – Interstate 88 – Room 741

In-the-round with other artists:

WEDNESDAY NIGHT Feb 1: 10:30pm-11:15pm – in the round – Janet’s Planet – room 637
THURSDAY NIGHT Feb 2: 12:30 AM-1AM – in the round – Song Camp Italy– room 730
FRIDAY NIGHT Feb 3: 12Am-12:30am – in the round – Song Camp Italy – room 730
SATURDAY NIGHT Feb 4: 11:30pm-12am – in the round – Song Camp Italy– room 730

Visit Booth A04 in the Century Foyer of the Exhibit Hall.

And in the meanwhile, check out the recent live Scooches performance, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round:

David Pleasant Flying In To Record On Upcoming Scooches Album

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round

Today Dr. David Pleasant flies up from Georgia to join us NYC based Scooches for a jam at our house that we will capture on video and tomorrow for a recording session, bringing his Gullah-Geechee rhythms and his activism to the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.”   

We have recorded one version of this powerful song for the album already. David will lead us to create a live version steeped in activism and history, with his deeply researched and lived awareness of the struggle for equality and justice. 

David playing the drum set he created

Our first version of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round”  was developed together with musicians Miles Griffith on lead vocals, Harvey Wirht on drums, Mamadou Ba on bass, Nick Russo on guitar, Betina Hershey (that’s me) on supporting vocals, and Ra$hCa$h rapping. The rhythms and voices are jubilant. The joyfulness of this first version can lift spirits even as we know that we must keep bringing justice, freedom, and understanding to the forefront, says Miles Griffith. How can we constantly make change if we can’t find the pockets of celebration? This is a point of contention with David, who says we need to keep focused on the seriousness of the black struggle against racism, not lose our drive celebrating what hasn’t fully come to pass.

Which version will be on the album? Possibly both, says Nick Russo, guitar/banjo/arrangements/producer. I can’t wait to see how we continue to bring our music, histories, and visions together to make something impactful.

David’s Spirit & Rhythms

This isn’t David’s first flight to join us. David flew up the first week of January to add his Gullah-Geechee stomping, harmonica, and his drumming to many tracks on our upcoming album Lift You Up

Watching David work is spellbinding. He immerses himself in the music, as most of us aim to do, but there is a power, a uniqueness, a sense of guttural cries about to surface at any moment, that seizes attention and brings me to the core of music and meaning.

Have you seen David’s TED talk yet?

You must have seen our Get Us Out Of Fearland video from our 2018 album release! David’s rhythms are what inspired me to write that title song for album, during a living room hang before a show in Boston. 

Lift You Up Songs

The songs we are recording now for Lift You Up are full of connection, the need for change, and ways to lift ourselves back up:

  • climate change (“Stop This Climate Change”)
  • gun violence (“Run”)
  • believing in ourselves so that we can work towards true freedom for all (“Spread Your Wings and Fly”)
  • and yes, also relationship stuff, including “I Broke The Egg”
  • and “Leaving,” a song about leaving our kids behind as we set off on the road to tour. We might be leaving, but we are definitely coming back!

Gratitude

This album taking shape makes me want to dance, weep, chuckle, and proudly claim it as my own. 

It wouldn’t sound the way it does without the thoughtful and talented musicians that fill my songs, the ears and vision of my husband and band co-leader Nick Russo, and Nick’s “cousin” Lenny at Soundtronics capturing our sound. 

For all of these wonderful beings, I am grateful. They lift me up, just as I hope our album will Lift You Up when we release it this coming April!

  • Betina Hershey, composer/guitarist/vocalist/scooch

Will you be at Folk Alliance? We decided a bit last minute, but we’ll be there as a trio version of The Scooches (Miles Griffith, Nick Russo, Betina Hershey – me)! Let’s connect there, or here in NYC, or online.

Have you checked out our new The Scooches YouTube Playlist and our @TheScooches YouTube Handle? We’re recording lots of videos and expect to be posting more of them as we gear up towards are album release!

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    David Pleasant makes his own drum sets

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    Betina, Miles, David, Nick

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    David Pleasant looking to the light

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    The Scooches in Queens, NYC (Betina, Nick, Miles, David)

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    David Pleasant

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    Nick, Betina, David, Miles

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    David Pleasant, harmonica

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    David Pleasant, David Amran, Nick Russo

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    The Extended Sessions (as Banjo Nickaru)

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    Rhythms in the kitchen with Dr. David Pleasant

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    Playing in the Vintage Train event, NYC

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    The Scooches (Nick, Betina, David, Miles)

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.”

WoodSongs

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.

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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…

Enjoy,

Betina Hershey

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

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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.”

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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.

 

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