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Dobro albums are akin to bagpipe albums in that they are purchased primarily by people who play the instrument, and to those who don’t play they pretty much all sound the same. Rob Ickes’ debut release as a session leader should contradict these truisms, at least on the resophonic side. Ickes has gained exposure and acclaim over the past two years with bluegrass supergroup Blue Highway, and he was voted the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 1996 Dobro Player of the Year, the only artist to unseat Jerry Douglas in the history of the award. Ickes is heard in a variety of musical settings ranging from solo pieces to ensemble tracks, three of which feature Blue Highway. The album also contains Ickes’ first recordings as a lead vocalist: the traditional “Tom Dooley” and “One Bad Case of the Blues” from Lester Flatt’s repertoire. Whether played lap style or with a bottleneck, the resophonic guitar’s ability to mimic the human voice makes it especially well suited to the blues idiom. Ickes’ grasp of blues textures and phrasing informs his playing on everything from a solo prison song such as “No More My Land” to Josh Graves’ “Flatt Lonesome.” Although Mike Auldridge has bridged the gap between bluegrass and swing, and Jerry Douglas tackled “Birdland” on The Great Dobro Sessions, Ickes further explores the Dobro as a jazz instrument on the Meters’ “Look-Ka Py Py.” As he stretches his playing in the direction of Wes Montgomery or Grant Green, however, Ickes does not escape his bluegrass roots: The jazz instrumental clocks in at all of two minutes and 42 seconds.

—Matt Watson