All The Way

Nu-Blu

Rural Rhythm, 2014

http://www.nu-blu.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/01/2015

Nu-Blu first came on the scene in 2011 with Pinecastle Records, offering a sound of progressive bluegrass tinged with the deeply traditional. It is some kind of mix between Jimmy Martin and the production and vocalization techniques of Alison Krauss and Union Station. All The Way is their fifth album, now with Rural Rhythm Records, and in this time, they have grown immensely both musically and in their song choices.

Nu-Blu's website and press material would have you believe that the album is driven by the chosen single, "Jesus And Jones." However, for this reviewer, that was the weakest song of the album (more on that later). There are several much stronger tracks to choose from on this release. "That's What Makes The Bluegrass Blue" takes us to eastern Kentucky and introduces us to a young woman who faces a tough reality of the region when her fiancée is killed in a mining accident.  "Rhythm Of The Train" is a tight little nostalgia and train-loving song, deep in the siderodromophilia that is common in bluegrass music. The title track is a beautifully written and disturbing song about a woman who chooses poorly in a marriage gamble that lands her in an abusive home, which leads to her running away and eventually killing her tormentor when he catches up to her. "Black Jack" is a banjo-focused instrumental that rings straight out of traditional grass from the 1960s. "It's Not That Cold In Montana" is a song that sounds like it is being performed by Blue Highway. And "Isn't She" is by far the most progressive sounding of the album, with a strong mandolin chord presence that lends a brightness to the melancholy yet hopeful tune. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album has its weaker moments as well. "A Little Good News" is a bit hokey in its lyrics that describe hoping to hear less about war and crime on the evening news and more about peace and harmony. "Forgiveless River" is an apparent attempt to sound exactly like Alison Krauss, but the material is painfully slow and drags on forever. And while "Jesus And Jones" is the album's lead single, it is a strange song. It is essentially placing George Jones on the same level as Jesus. While I have a lot of respect for George Jones and his music, I cannot entirely relate to the motivation that drives this kind of comparison. And as I said earlier, there are far better tracks on the album to use for a single.

This album represents a lot of growth for Nu-Blu in their cohesiveness as a group and in their material selection. They are starting to find ways to chart their own musical course, but they are still weighing themselves down when trying to pay homage to other artists. This group seems to do best when they breathe freely, and I hope they will try more of that in their next offering.

Rating: B-

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