Well, the first thing to be noted about this disc is that it's on the Rural Rhythms label, which means if you're serious about your bluegrass, country, and Americana, you can't do without it (with, as with any enterprise, an exception or two) because certain labels distinguish themselves by impeccable discretions in choosing rosters that make the rest of any genre pale in astonished respect. Doesn't matter what the style is, just glance of the history of ECM, Yellow Dog, Deutsche Grammaphone, RCA Red Seal, Flying Fish, Pine Castle, and various other imprints whose oeuvres are unassailable, and the point is made. The title of Nu Blu's latest CD derives not in the number they've released altogether but in the years they've been a unit, which is now 10. This is their 5th issuance, and it's a solid trove of cuts highly respectful of the trad side of the bluegrass house but with quite a few modernist flourishes spicing up the mix.
Can't say I'm nuts about the cover, whose brushed steel aspect makes the disc first seem to be a Top 40 candidate a la Chicago II or a mainstream jazz slab, but, that aside, the music's pure down-home rustic, refrains in presentations that are at times quasi-a-capella and soulful (Without a Kiss, which has minimal instrumental accompaniment), other times almost American gypsy (Caught in the Middle), hot wire slippery rave-up (the instrumental Giant Squid), and then a mellower take on more boisterous familiarity (D.L. Byron's Shadows of the Night), the lattermost of which is quite a departure from Pat Benatar's version. Carolyn Routh, the soulful element in the quartet, takes the blockbuster song aside for a bit of reflection, a quieter passion, a one-to-one soliloquy/dialogue speaking to the individual listener rather than an audience entire.
That set of quasi-hard-ass miens on the group in the reverse liner photo may at first be a bit daunting, but it's also indicative of an ensemble that means business and wastes no time getting down to it. From the opening measures of That Road, with its clear up front vocals from a no-nonsense Dixie-Appalachains warbler, its righteous banjo and high flying fiddle, the listener walks straight back to elder days inflected with a post-WWII consciousness escorting grandma and grandpa's hard-won moralities back to their offspring, to meet, talk, and understand. But, beside all that, it's just damn good music.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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