Jesus and Jones: Nu-Blu brings fusion and faith to bluegrass
To step out and decide to make a living in music takes a tremendous leap of personal and professional courage. For Daniel and Carolyn Routh, however, the husband-and-wife team that founded Nu-Blu, it became a necessity, the way to maintain the life-giving force of their music. Today, even as they continue to grow and reach loftier and bigger goals, they have reason to celebrate: the release of their new project, All The Way, released through Rural Rhythm Records. The album is fueled by the George Jones inspired song “Jesus and Jones,” which has gained attention and exposure nationally across multiple genres.
Nu-Blu, based in Siler City in central North Carolina, is comprised of Carolyn, who handles bass and vocals; Levi Austin on vocals and banjo; Milom Williams II, on mandolin; and Daniel, who is the band’s Renaissance Man – guitarist, singer, manager, and tour coordinator, among many other roles. The group brings its lively and entertaining version of Americana-bluegrass music to audiences across the nation year-round. Their sound acknowledges the traditional institutions that have shaped it, yet is innovative and daring enough to bring a fresh sparkle to contemporary acoustic music that lands them squarely in the forefront of bands blazing the trail in acoustic entertainment. Influences range from the sounds of original bluegrass pioneers like Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and Lester Flatt to rock bands of the 1980’s, and modern contemporary sounds such as Alison Krauss and Union Station. Carolyn’s soprano vocal approach might be described as similar to Ms. Krauss, except she carries a phrasing and emotional elegance that shows a clear originality. Daniel and Levi provide inventive singing to fill out the vocal sound, while all four members present instrumental prowess to impress.
Nu-Blu started back in September 2003 after Carolyn and Daniel, who had played for years in different genres both separately and together, decided to devote their efforts to forming Nu-Blu. Despite challenges that included numerous personnel changes, the folding of their original record label, and even a stroke that left Carolyn unable to speak or move her right side, the Rouths were determined to make Nu-Blu a full-time vehicle for them to bring music to their fans. With the addition of Levi in 2007 and Austin in 2011, the magical sound of Nu-Blu was complete, and as the group continues to build a national fan base, audiences are listening. The band is finding itself more and more at home on the radio charts, most recently with the evocative “Jesus and Jones.” The stage is now set for the group to continue its chart trend with the songs from All The Way.
What’s ahead for Nu-Blu? Plenty, you may believe that. Every year, the band logs more miles on the road than the year before, plays more shows than the year before, sleeps more nights on the bus than the year before. But for Daniel, Carolyn, Levi and Austin, it’s not a chore, it’s a way of life. It’s not slogging from one venue to the next, it’s another opportunity to touch their audiences’ lives with music, that great universal bond which closes the gaps of humanity and brings lightness to hearts, smiles to faces and redemption to souls.
“If we can touch somebody on a deep level,” says Daniel Routh, “and create a moment for them that they always will remember and entertains them, that’s gold. If we can say to someone,‘Hey, check this out. If you like this, you’re probably going to like bluegrass!' Really that’s why we’re here.”
Carolyn jumped into the spotlight in her life before age 8, performing and singing in church choir, school musicals, and plays. By age 18, she had commanded leading roles in Broadway musicals, and by age 20 she had started her own band, a gospel trio. Her unique vocal style incorporates her early musical loves, and well as a background performing as a rock and roll vocalist as well. In fact, she contributes most of what shaped her vocals to the rock genre. It was music that brought her into contact with now husband, Daniel, and the pace picked up even more, with the founding of Nu-Blu in 2003. Carolyn brings an award winning career as a vocalist, a lifelong knowledge of the performing arts and what makes stage performing effective, years of experience selecting songs for recording, recorded songs of her own, bass playing competence, and a track record of leadership in bluegrass. Few bands exceed the longevity, camaraderie, and stage enthusiasm of Nu-Blu, and Carolyn’s warmth and love of the music is part of the Nu-Blu glue that makes it all stick!
If she isn’t working in the band…. (long pause because that’s a strange thought!), Carolyn is taking care of her kids and vegging out watching her favorite TV series, Game of Thrones.
The other redhead, and the guy making it all happen, is Daniel Routh. Daniel is the engineer of all things business, from marketing to miles behind the wheel, and engineering to effort required to put a band on the map, Daniel is the tireless conductor of the Nu-Blu train. Starting with a Sears and Roebuck guitar at age 12 and bluegrass on the radio, he went on to perform locally on banjo, garnering some instrumentalist awards, and performing with several local bands. Joining forces with Carolyn in 2003, he shared with her a vision of a musical sound crafted by influences from rock to roots, all grounded in a solid bluegrass sound. With a degree in History and twenty years in all aspects of production, marketing, studio-engineering, business management, stage management, live sound engineering, and graphic design, there’s not much that relates to band success that Daniel has not worked hard at. The popularity and respect which Nu-Blu has gained are a testament to his skill, and just as important, his commitment to sharing his joy and passion for music in his entire professional and performing ventures. Daniel is guitarist and vocalist in Nu-Blu, but also brings skills in instruction on bass and banjo.
If Daniel isn’t working, you will probably find him asleep. He might wake up to read a book about American history, and, of course, spend family time.
Multi-instrumentalist Levi Austin started with banjo at age 9, and performed regularly as part of the “Rand ol Opry show, while winning many competitions before hitting his teenage years, including first place banjo at the Galax Fiddlers Convention. Levi has been performing with Nu-Blu since age 14, adding to the solid playing of the band, built on solid relationships. In addition to playing banjo, guitar, and bass, he has been an engineer at Red Squared Audio, completing projects that have received airplay on over 2500 radio and TV stations. Levi also brings skills in instruction and theory, having spent a year in music at Campbell University, and taught lessons himself for over two years. Last but not least, he is completign a business degree and puts this to use with various marketing projects including website design and T-shirt design and sales.
When not hitting the highway with Nu-Blu you can find him working out or lounging by a pool somewhere.
Milom Williams II
Milom Williams is from Boiling Springs, SC and began playing guitar at the age of 8, shortly followed by the mandolin a few years later. At only 22 years old, he is equally adept at each, gaining much professional experience on both instruments. As a member of The Watkins Family and Kevin Richardson & Cutting Edge, he has showcased his ability as not only a player, but also a lead and harmony vocalist. He has been a frequent addition to the esteemed gospel group, The Rochesters, for several years and has filled-in with many artists, including Volume Five, Darrin Beachley and Skip Cherryholmes. His self-released solo project, entitled My Path, exhibits his talent as a songwriter, vocalist and instrumentalist.