by Trevor Christian, photo courtesy Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches
On Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches’ Very Next Thing, the closest thing to a lyrical theme to emerge from the collection of standards, old-time and originals presented is the thrill of being in a committed relationship. Not the excitement that comes from a new relationship or the comfort of an established one, but the renewable passion that extends through marriage and shows up in everyday interactions and activities.
Betina Hershey, the guitar player and almost always the lead singer for the group, more than touched on the sexual aspect of her relationship with her husband, multi-instrumentalist and band leader Nick Russo in her original tune “I Don’t Believe In Love.” The ironically named song jokes about how calling a relationship ‘love’ might bring with it all the bad experiences Hershey had come to associate with the word. It also suggested that though the relationship would be committed, it wouldn’t be conventional in label or practice. The lyrics encourage a suitor to “ring my bell every night” and contain a few phrases like “eat my honeydew” and “sprinkle me, you beautiful man” that at least seem designed to come across as suggestive. When talking with me for the February 6 episode of Country Pocket on WUSB, Hershey credited her parents with forming positive attitudes about relationships.
“I come from parents who were hippies and musicians and super loving and very expressive so they understood how to talk about anything,” she said. “I knew so many things about my parents that were really handy as a teenager going out into the world and figuring out how to live my own life and be bold and try things. I believe that life should be an exploration of love and joy as much as possible.”
The album’s other original, “I’m Gettin’ Married,” was a song Hershey and Russo co-wrote from the male point of view, though the same attitude about relationships still shined through. Marriage might mean less time out with friends and more time spent playing with baby toys, the song argues, but it’s still limitless: “Now my sin is perfectly legal/I do what I want every night/I stare in their eyes and wonder/how can this be so right?”
Though the majority of the covers on Very Next Thing address different topics, the two that Even if she hadn’t used the word mischievous when introducing the song at the group’s performance Bay Shore’s Eclectic Cafe, Hershey’s facial expressions during “Ain’t Misbehavin’” conveyed that mood. She grinned and looked around the room out of the sides of her smiling eyes. For her, the tune isn’t a proud statement of fidelity despite temptation. It’s an exciting chance to celebrate how happy she is in her relationship while rejecting suitors from a place of total confidence.
“Nobody But My Baby Is Getting My Love” follows a similar theme. Hershey said her reason for selecting the old fashioned tune was its “gleeful” mood.
“I’m in my skin and I’m happy. It’s that kind of a song.”
Russo and Hershey do seem to be in a fantastic place. On a Saturday night, they were out playing the with friends their children call uncles while joking with each other between interview segments.
“We have so much fun playing these things together. It’s our play.” She also credited strong communication skills with keeping the couple happy.
To hear the characteristically quirky story of their courtship, listen in to part of our conversation on the topic here: