In a classic tale of taking a lot of time and work to become an overnight success, North Carolina's Nu-Blu
seem to be making waves in the American bluegrass scene with this long-nurtured album of material. Core members Daniel and Carolyn Routh are joined by banjo player Levi Austin, fiddler Greg Luck and mandolin player Kendall Gales. All of them are exemplary players, solidly in the bluegrass tradition and with Carolyn's clear, sweet voice they frequently sound like Allison Krauss at her most traditional.
There's just one instrumental amongst the dozen tracks - a version of Red Haired Boy - and the eleven songs come from a range of sources reflecting a desire to move forward within the genre. Bluegrass writer Mark Brinkman contributes the standout song for my money. 'Lonesome Mountain' is a nice combination of a great bluegrass tune and a lyric that is partly myth-making, yet at the same time rooted in real lives. Four songs come from the band members themselves and these are very much in the mould of Allison Krauss's own songwriting; 'Spin On A Red Brick Floor', from Nanci Griffith and Juice Newton's 'River of Love' are amongst the other songs covered and I guess this reflects the range of influences these guys have in making their own music. In other words, I don't expect they do a bluegrass version of Guns'n'Roses for an encore.
They've got a nice balance to their sound and Levi Austin's baritone voice adds some weight when he harmonises with Daniel and Carolyn. In best bluegrass tradition, every instrument gets a chance to shine and I particularly like it when Daniel's picking away at the lower strings on his guitar, it seems to give a bit of a welly to the sound. I'm curious about the fiddle sound. It sounds to me like old style mountain playing and frequently I think he's playing two strings together; I'm not sure if this is common in bluegrass bands but it's the thing that gives Nu-Blu a sound of their own to my ears. I'm probably completely wrong on that one so if anyone cares to enlighten me... Overall, they drive along really nicely - precise and fast - and any sort of bluegrass fan will welcome these new kids on the block.