Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nu-Blu & Morris Brothers at Rivertown Bluegrass Society - Conway, SC

It's always fun for us to return for a Saturday night show at the Rivertown Bluegrass Society in Conway, SC. Rivertown provided us with first bluegrass experience back 2000 or 2001 while we were spending a winter in our fifth wheel at Myrtle Beach Travel Park. In those days the monthly third Saturday show was held at Coastal Carolina University. One of the featured bands was Blueridge featuring Alan Bibey. Irene fell in love with the mandolin that evening and we both found ourselves entranced by the music. Over the next few years we began attending more events, traveling to festivals, and taking pictures. In December of 2005 I posted my first blog entries and we've been at it ever since. Now, more than ten years later, the Rivertown Bluegrass Society has moved to Horry - Georgetown Technical College and continues to provide traditional bluegrass music to both local fans and Myrtle Beach visitors. Last night we drove out to the College to see Nu-Blu, a band we've come to know in recent years and to enjoy a reunion with The Morris Brothers, a local band from Aynor, SC who we've followed since those early days. We also look forward to seeing people we've come to know over the past decade. 

Jamming Before the Show
Mike and Matt Morris Warming Up

 Young Fiddler
Thomas Lilly - Emcee
Roger Black - Emcee

Mickey Sellers - RBS President
In many ways, local bluegrass associations provide the glue holding bluegrass music together and keeping it alive. Local volunteers, pickers and fans, give untold hours each month organizing shows and promoting local events. Members of RBS, which meets monthly in fall and winter, also jam at a local Bojangles each Thursday night.  Avid bluegrass fans can attend association meetings and jams several times a week within an hour's drive. Some association, like the California Bluegrass Association and the Boston Bluegrass Union, have thousands of members and promote large annual festivals. Others, like Rivertown, remain small, but they all share their love for the music and their willingness to give time, energy, and resources to make bluegrass available. Festivals like this keep their admission costs and membership low, supplementing those income streams with raffles and 50-50 raffles, always seeking to keep bluegrass within the means of every potential fan. 

The Morris Brothers

The Morris Brothers, the elder Mike on banjo and his brother Matt on guitar, have been playing music together for more than forty years.  A fixture in northeastern South Carolina, they live in rural Aynor west of Conway, playing at parties, churches, small festivals, and jams throughout the region. The band plays a large selection of classic bluegrass covers, original songs Matt has written, and soul-deep gospel music. Mike has worked long and hard to master Reno-style single string banjo, a difficult style few learn these days. (See video below)  Tammy Holt on bass has brought stability, planning, and a web presence to the band, while her husband Terry built instruments for three of the members. Danny Marrs has recently joined the band on mandolin.
Mike Morris

Matt Morris
Tammy Holt

Danny Marrs
The Morris Brothers - Double Banjo Blues - Video

We've known this young bluegrass band since we first met them four years ago at IBMA. We've watched the band improve itself each year and work hard to learn the business of bluegrass in every component of what it takes to become successful.  The young couple of Daniel and Carolyn Routh are the core to this band, which has settled in now and has grown each year in its repertoire and cohesiveness. They sing a well-selected collection of classic bluegrass, contemporary covers, and original material from first rate song writers and, increasingly, from within the band. Carolyn has a distinctive voice, singing lead on much of their material. Daniel's voice is perfectly suited as a harmony vehicle in support of his wife while also carrying some of the lead work, too. Banjo player Levi Austin provides harmony and solo vocal work as well as playing first rate banjo.  Austin Koerner is strong on mandolin. The band maintains an easy, good-natured demeanor on stage, allowing each member to develop a stage personality and keeping the interactions lively.  Located in Siler City, NC, Nu-Blu is an up-and-coming band developing in the intensely competitive musical environment of their home state.  

Daniel Routh

Carolyn Routh

 Levi Austin
Austin Koerner

Nu-Blu - Spin on a Red Brick Floor - Video


Nu-Blu is an ambitious regional band seeking to reach out to national status. So far they've been doing all the right things, with three CD's to their credit, a recording contract with Pinecastle, and a widening radius of places they play, including being scheduled for the 2013 Danny Stewart Bluegrass Cruise. This is a band that bears watching. Promoters should consider booking them while they can still afford them. 
In the Jam Room
Traditional Grand Finale

If you happen to be in the Myrtle Beach area on the third Saturday of the month or if you live in our near the Grand Strand, give The Rivertown Bluegrass Society a try. It's a down home, enjoyable evening of bluegrass performers and pickin'.  

In addition to the two videos I've posted here, I'll be posting additional ones from these two bands over time. Look for both of them here and then subscribe to my channel so you get all the updates.