Nu-Blu is a fine young band from North Carolina which features a very tight, polished sound, impressive instrumental work, and excellent vocals led by Carolyn Routh. On this, their second release (and the first for the newly active Pinecastle label) they present 12 well-chosen and engaging cuts that range from solid bluegrass to modern country. In addition to Carolyn Routh on vocals and bass, the band includes Routh’s husband Daniel on guitar, resonator guitar and vocals, Levi Austin on banjo, guitar, resonator guitar and vocals , and Kendall Gales on mandolin. Rob Ickes guests on resonator guitar on five cuts, and Greg Luck supplies fiddle on seven cuts.
Nu-Blu has the fortune to be blessed with not only Carolyn Routh’s vocal abilities—she can sing ethereal as on “Roses And Rust” and “Look To You” and hard and punchy on “That’s Who I’m Supposed To Be,” all with a purity of voice that conjures visions of Alison Krauss—but also with a harmony blend with Daniel Routh and Levi Austin that seems almost perfect it is so smooth ( if “raw” is your favorite kind of harmony, this may not be your type of band). Daniel Routh also does some fine lead vocal work on “Every Shade Of Blue” and a moving “Guitar Case,” as does Levi Austin on “Lonesome Heartache Blues” and “Just Trying To Get Home To You.” This band is deep in vocal talent, and they make the most of it. Song choices fit the abilities of the band well here (though when you have this level of vocal ability almost anything might sound very good). Highlights include the gently rolling “Make Me Whole Again” with very nice resonator guitar work by Austin, “Family Quilt” (a family-ties metaphor), and the driving “Must Be The Wind.” The instrumental support from the band members is stellar, and Luck’s fiddle and Ickes’ guitar are very complimentary.
For those who like variety along with straight bluegrass, and some absolutely topnotch vocal work, this release is highly recommended. (Pinecastle Records, 2881 NC 108 Hwy. E., Columbus, NC 28722, www.pinecastlemusic.com.) AW