Ever since Woody Guthrie logged his travels in the immortal book “Bound for Glory,” countless artists have felt a kindred calling to understand life for what it is and write about their experiences in real, simple terms. While Guthrie took note of the brokenness of society at large, some have clung more purely to the brokenness of relationships. Such is the spirit of the two-piece band Just Blue. Unlike their previous, completely stripped down effort Below the Damage, their latest offering draws from the studio talents of Brian Fechino (Pat McGee Band, Amy Gerhartz) of Room 56 in Nashville to enhance their soundscapes while still remaining true to their roots. 2015’s Speak to Hear by Just Blue is just real, candid, and enjoyable indie folk rock.
The comparisons between Melissa Barelmann’s vocals to the softly melodic tonal qualities of Natalie Merchant remain obvious from the opening track, even though the grind-filled Every Time is musically one of the Blue’s edgiest songs to date. This retro-future number is a virtually perfect studio venture of tight, pop rock with tasty elements of indie color. Aside from extremely interesting production, Chadd Fagg’s crunchy guitar and accomplished, punchy bass playing rounds off a great song and fabulous introduction to the album. From there, the listener ventures into thoughtful memoirs of folk-esque, life-as-it-comes while never completely leaving the intentional, studio paint brushwork behind.
Some recurring lyrical elements of the album include reflective, love lost story telling which quickly becomes a salve of empathy for the listener’s personal life ailments. This cohesive element rings true from the acoustic, folk Americana of “Don’t Go There” through the jangly, crisp guitar of “Answering Machine.” Even when the arrangements are at their simplest (see piano ballad “Please”) there are wonderfully subtle, experimental surprises – like the naked vocal section found in “For You.” This reviewer especially finds himself channeling the spirit of Guthrie from the lyrics of “Lucky That Way” – “Life will take you where it wants you to go… I’ll be fine ‘till my dying day … I guess I’m lucky that way.”
If you’re lucky, and honest, enough, you might just find yourself experiencing Just Blue’s Speak to Hear – and you’ll be glad you did.
The album can be sampled and purchased at: http://www.justbluemusic.com/