Bands often mark milestone anniversaries with new collections of their music – greatest hits albums, or in the case of the Lonesome River Band this past year, fresh recordings of their greatest hits. Nu-Blu, which is celebrating ten years as a band in 2013, has recently released a disc which commemorates this tenth anniversary. However, instead of digging through past releases to find songs for this new album, the fittingly named Ten consists of (you guessed it) ten tracks of all-new music.
The band states that while in the past they may have chosen their material based on what others expected to hear, with this album they have allowed their own emotions and experiences to guide the selection of songs. This has led to an album which moves back and forth between straightforward contemporary bluegrass and emotion-filled acoustic country. Overall, Ten has a country singer-songwriter feel, particularly due to bassist Carolyn Routh’s heartfelt lead vocals on a majority of the tracks.
The songs on the bluegrass side of things are, in general, the most enjoyable on the album, largely because they have a nice energy running through them. The opening track, That Road, is an upbeat musician’s lament which finds the singer trying to work through the familiar conflict between her love of making music on the road and her love for home and the one she left there. With a few exceptions, songs with this theme are usually written and sung from a male point of view, so it’s nice to hear a female lead and have a female writer (Honi Deaton) this time.
Another grassy track, Caught in the Middle, offers another standard bluegrass theme, this time that of someone who has left home and realizes it was the wrong decision. Trains I Didn’t Take is a variation on the idea behind Balsam Range’s hit Trains I Missed, with the singer stopped at a railroad crossing behind an old love and realizing that “there are no mistakes, only choices that I made.”
On the more country-leaning side of things are the tearjerker Without a Kiss (the story of a coal miner’s widow who rests in the knowledge she’ll see him again someday) and the patriotic All Americans (which finds several band members sharing lead vocals, and urges listeners to put their differences aside and remember that even if we disagree, we all live in the same country). Eddie’s Garage is a laidback slice-of-life tune about a small-town working man who represents “the soul of the USA.” These numbers are all enjoyable, but both the subject matter and sound are much more similar to late 90’s/early 2000’s country radio than the contemporary bluegrass found elsewhere on the album.
The Pat Benatar cover Shadows of the Night has a mellow country feel, as well (with a bit of soft rock mixed in), and closes out the album on a high note. Routh seems quite comfortable and convincing singing here, and this stripped-down, acoustic version is a nice, modern update from the over-the-top 80’s production of Benatar’s cut of the song.
Nu-Blu, which consists of Routh (bass), her husband Daniel (guitar), Levi Austin (banjo), and Austin Koerner (mandolin) is a talented group, and while this album falls more in the country category than bluegrass, their fans will still likely enjoy the stories and music to be found on Ten.
For more information on Nu-Blu, visit their website at www.nu-blu.com. Their new album can be purchased from several online music retailers.