Carolyn Routh, the centerpiece of the band that she and her husband Daniel (vocals and guitar) formed, is a stupendous singer who ranks among the likes of Rhonda Vincent and Claire Lynch. Under her powers, ballads like “Without A Kiss” (co-written by Scott Filson, Michael Mahler, and Bill Filson) and “Shadows Of The Night” (D.L. Byron) heard on Nu-Blu’s latest album Ten (which celebrates this North Carolina-based band’s tenth anniversary) take on an almost transcendent credibility and beauty.
There’s a back-story here that makes her stellar vocal performances all the more inspiring to anyone who has endured serious health issues. In 2003, around the time of Nu-Blu’s inception, Carolyn had a series of strokes that for a while left her unable to talk and barely able to walk. Needless to say, she’s bounced back beautifully. But as is manifest on Ten, Carolyn’s show-stopping pipes and courageous powers of renewal are merely the tip of the iceberg. These ten well-chosen songs also highlight the highly accomplished picking and harmony singing that this four-member ensemble brings to the show.
Along with the Rouths, the band is rounded out by Levi Austin (vocals, banjo, and guitar) and Austin Koerner on mandolin. (Carolyn also doubles on bass.) For these sessions, they were joined by ace fiddlers Ron Stewart and Jim VanCleve. Daniel Routh is a far more low-key and ordinary lead singer than his wife is. Yet he brings quiet earnestness and dignity to moving heartland celebrations like “Eddie’s Garage” and “The Seed.” The entire band also takes a collective star turn on a powerhouse bluegrass instrumental breakdown called “Giant Squid.”
Even if a few of the songs on Ten, such as “Shadows Of The Night,” lean slightly toward the pop end of the spectrum, their power and appeal are unquestionable. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.)BA