Melissa Barelmann (vocals) and Chad Fagg (guitars, backing vocals) of Just Blue, met in early 2006, brought together by a love of simple, personal songs. A precocious musician, Chad played in several rock and metal bands before arriving behind an acoustic guitar. After mistaking Melissa’s voice for that of Natalie Merchant, Chad knew those soothing vocals would provide the ideal accompaniment.
Just Blue began playing covers but they wanted more. This led to their 13-track debut CD, “Below The Damage”, featuring songs that weave Melissa’s mellow vocals with the tapestry of Chad’s acoustic guitar. After taking some time off of writing to play locally, Chad and Melissa got back to writing for a new record. The result is the full-band recording, entitled, “Speak To Hear”, which was released on July 10th 2015. Just Blue enlisted the help of Brian Fechino (Pat McGee Band, Amy Gerhartz) of Room 56 in Nashville to mix and master the new record. “Brian has taken our new record to the next level for us” says Chad.
This first thing you’ll notice about “Speak To Hear” is its sincerity. The music is from the heart and seems to me to have been intended to please the Chad and Melissa rather than some commercial esthetic. The result is interesting and enjoyable music where the performers are allowing the listener, to share in their inner vision of who they are as artists. You can readily hear the emotion in each and every song, starting with “Every Time”. But the album isn’t really dominated by any one song (though my personal favorites are “For You” and “My Winter”) but rather gets its strength from the overall style of the album and the equally strong pull of each song.
Maturity in lyrics and music are clearly evident here. From the beauty and ache of the piano driven “Please” to the rock intensity of “Only One,” there is room for thought in all these songs. Certainly most of the tracks on “Speak To Hear” imply that life and love is filled with heartache and pain, while “Lucky That Way” suggests that we can get through it with a strong will – “Guess that’s how it goes / Life will take you where it wants you to go / You can lay low or go with the flow / But I’ll be fighting til my dying day / I guess I’m lucky / Lucky That Way…”
Melissa Barelmann’s voice is an instrument that is capable of conveying the intensity of the lyrics present in all these tracks, while Chad Fagg’s guitars and performance seem to get better and grow richer with each listening. No doubt, Just Blue are a thinking person’s duo; they perpetually question relationships and may even gave us insights about ourselves. “Speak To Hear” is a testament to what music beyond the mainstream could be. I recommend it to anyone who is willing to accept the challenge of truly inspiring, honest music, without all the fanfare.