Nu-Blu – All the Way

Another in my string of bluegrass reviews, Nu-Blu's new record "All The Way" manages to take the cheesy and make it memorable. Take leadoff track "That's What Makes the Bluegrass Blue." I couldn't think of a less appealing title. Yet the first spin clothed in expert bluegrass picking and airtight harmonies, makes the song surprisingly enjoyable. Carolyn Routh certainly knows how to pull together a melody and Rhonda Vincent pitches in on harmony vocals as well. 6PAN1T Instrumental "Black Jack" is a banjo workout to say the least and it certainly earns Levi Austin some cred for his quick picking. From there the metronome is turned down quite a bit in favor of a decidedly more acoustic sound on "Forgiveless." "Jesus and Jones," and "Heavy Cross to Bear." These tunes focus a much more open arrangement that features the vocals. "Rhythm of the Train" is a decidedly moving bluegrass train song. The rhythms of dobro and the subject of the train go together so well with the innocence of the narrator's childhood story. "It's Not That Cold in Montana" features vocalist Levi Austin as well. Austin laid back tenor brings the to life. These guys really know how to pick, particularly on the upbeat numbers.  

Duke Robillard – Calling All Blues

Duke Robillard is a blues guitar icon.  A multiple Blues Music Award winner and Grammy nominee, if Robillard had stopped at creating the jump blues revival outfit Roomful of Blues in the late 1960s, his contribution to blues music would have been sizable. Jump blues, an up-tempo form of blues often featuring horns that was popularized during the 1940s war years, has an old-timey feel that is a refreshing change from more traditional blues forms. RobillardBut Robillard didn’t stop at helping to revive jump blues. Over a career spanning decades, Robillard has explored many avenues of blues, rock and even swing both in his solo work and as a member (replacing Jimmie Vaughan) of the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the early 1990s. Over the course of his career he has also worked with such artists as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Dr. John. To get a flavor of Robillard’s range, check out the snappy After Hours Swing Session from 1990, featuring Robillard channelling Charlie Christian's swing-era jazz, and the tour-de-force Living With the Blues from 2002. There is also his 2005 collaboration with Ronnie Earl, The Duke Meets the Earl, which was the first collaboration between these two great Roomful alumni.  Last year's Independently Blue was yet another in a long line of outstanding releases.  Robillard also puts on a great show in which his slick swing and jump blues playing distinguishes him from the many other excellent guitarists occupying the field.  After a recent concert at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, which featured a huge variety of styles, Robillard commented that he would be happy to play swing all night long if his audiences would go for it. Calling All Blues is an electic mixture, but there are several outstanding tunes on the album.  Among the highlights are "Blues Beyond the Call of Duty," featuring vocals by Sunny Crownover and Robillard's awesome guitar skills; "Confusion Blues," with vocals by jazzy vocals by Bruce Bears, provides a hint of Robillard's jump blues and swing affinity; and "Motor Trouble," with its slow vibe, could be interpreted as a metaphor for aging.  Robillard was joined on the album by the regular members of The Duke Robillard Band, which features Bears on piano and keyboards, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Texeira on drums.  Crownover and a horn section comprised of Rich Lataille, Mark Earley and Doug Woolverton put in guest appearances.  
Audio Stream: Duke Robillard, "Motor Trouble" [audio: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/7770435/07%20Motor%20trouble.mp3]
 

Readers’ Pick: And The War Came by Shakey Graves

You picked And The War Came by Shakey Graves as your favorite for the week of October 7, 2014.

Readers’ Top Picks (last 4 weeks)

  1. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone by Lucinda Williams (9) [9/30]
  2. And The War Came by Shakey Graves (7) [10/7]
  3. Different Shades Of Blue by Joe Bonamassa (7) [9/23]
  4. Love & Logic by Sons of Bill (4) [9/30]
  5. Home Is Where the Hurt Is by Jp Harris & The Tough Choices (4) [9/23]
  6. Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn by Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn (3) [10/7]
  7. Standing In The Breach by Jackson Browne (3) [10/7]
  8. Saturday Night / Sunday Morning by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives (3) [9/30]
  9. Paradise Outlaw by Pieta Brown (3) [9/30]
  10. Blues Scars by Skyla Band Burrell (1) [10/7]
Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll to help us make this list.

Monday Morning Video: Pete Donnelly “The Trench”

It can often be both refreshing and insightful to hear a stripped down version of a songs originally performed by a full band. Here's a great example -- Pete Donnelly of the Figgs offering up a solo take on one of my favorite songs from that band's extensive catalog. The tempo is a touch slower than the original but the performance still maintains some of the song's glorious edginess.

The Roys – The View

As a recently inducted fan of bluegrass, I've come to know that the genre has the ability to turn the cheesy lyrics into an earnest and emotional tune. The Roys (brother and sister duo of Lee and Elaine) use their tight harmonies and musicianship to do just that. With a song like "Live the Life You Love" can only be saved in the right hands and it seems like Lee's vocal (which sounds quite a bit like Ricky Skaggs) manages to transform corny lyrics into a heartfelt tune. 1411669029_the-roys-the-view-2014 But Lee really shines on the tune "Those Boots." In other hands, the tune would fall flat, but the tight harmonies and picking lift this song. I find myself humming along to the patriotic message. Can't help but enjoy Lee's ability to keep the lyrics simple and elevate the delivery. Sister Elaine is certainly no slouch either. Her pristine country drawl is in full force throughout the record. Leadoff track "No More Lonely" features her bluegrass pipes. The tight harmony vocals provide the perfect backdrop for Elaine's simple and clear delivery. "No More Tears Left to Cry" has a bit more of a traditional bluegrass feel with prominent banjo intro and breaks. Elaine's voice is again in the forefront and she belts out the notes after note over the tight arrangements. TheRoys-Pic The Roys also pulled in mandolin ace Doyle Lawson for "Mandolin Man." There's no doubt that the band knows how to pick and sing and have the transformative power of an seasoned set of bluegrass pickers.