Nu-blu: Bluegrass, Soul, Jesus and Jones
Depending on your musical and religious persuasion, just mentioning George Jones and Jesus in the same sentence is either blasphemy or high praise. Hang it on a bluegrass rack, get one of the most revered soul men of all times to sing on it, and you’ve got a genre bender of epic proportions. “One made wine, the other one drank it,” Nu-blu’s Carolyn Routh sings on “Jesus and Jones,” from their latest, All the Way.
“One spoke the gospel,” Sam Moore answers, his magnificent voice still throbbing with churchy soul, as Routh softly replies, “The other one sang it.” The surviving member of Sam and Dave (“Hold On I’m Coming,” “Soul Man,”) was a fan of Jones’ music as well as a friend, and quickly agreed to honor him in this first paring of soul and bluegrass.
Siler City’s Nu-blu considers themselves a bluegrass band, using traditional instruments and a frontwoman who sounds like Alison Krauss. “I grew up around bluegrass,” Routh says. “Being from central North Carolina, you don’t really have a choice, its all around you, all the time.” The band does mostly originals, but has no problem going off the rails doing Pat Benatar’s “Shadows Of The Night” stripped down, with only two guitars and a mandolin. “We don’t take a rock song or an old country song, and say, ‘Hey, let’s make this bluegrass.’ We just take the song and we play the song like we’re feeling it, and it’s meaningful to us.”
The band admits that when they first started out 11 years ago, they felt a real need to conform to the industry standard. “We’re comfortable in our own skin now,” Routh says confidently, “able to step out of those boundaries, spread our wings and say, ‘We love this bluegrass, but this is how we’re feeling this song.’ ”