Blue Contagion – Self Titled
Mystic Mermaid Music/BMI
CD: 10 Songs, 39 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
In the days of dining in and dining out, sometimes I’d order appetizers or sampler platters as my entrées. Not only were they a lot cheaper than the dinner menu items, but they were often tastier. This analogy applies to the latest CD from Springfield, MO’s Blue Contagion, a self-titled plate of musical tapas that are more delicious individually than as a dinner-sized whole. Consider the first five songs. I listened to each of them twice before moving on. That’s how savory they are. Fusing classic blues rhythms with the zesty flavors of postmodern rock, these ten tracks will make your ears say yum! Most are originals, though the opener was co-written by Don Goodman, and number six, “Somethin’ You Got,” was written by Chris Kenner.
On vocals, front man Art Bentley has mastered the arts of diction, enunciation, and emotion. He knows that mumbling won’t get lead singers far, even if they play great guitar – which he does. Art has been an independent career musician for thirty-plus years. Regional popularity garnered invites to sing the national anthem for the Kansas City Royals as well as the Miss Missouri Pageant. He also boasts thirteen albums of original material. Accompanying him on second guitar is Bryan Lawson, courted by Branson, MO for theater shows. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because he became bassist to the famed Osmond Brothers for eleven years. Chris Bustillos, on keys, has pleased Branson audiences as Elton John and Jerry Lee Lewis. Chris also served as music director for the touring production “King and Cash” (a tribute to Elvis and Johnny Cash). Completing the quartet is Shane Jennings on drums, who started playing at ten years old.
Nine times out of ten, the first song on a blues rock album is high-octane, getting audiences’ blood pumping and hearts thumping. Not so with “If You Ever Go to Memphis,” a stellar low-key love song with fantastic harmony and a vibe that balances a piano lament, the notes of heartbreak, with a thrumming bassline of perseverance. Its lyrics are insightful: “I’ve learned that when people come from different worlds, they’ve got to learn to give. ‘Cause it’s like my mama said: a bird and a fish might fall in love, but tell me, son, where on earth are they gonna live?”
Next comes the contagious gospel stomp “Build It on a Rock,” which provides sound advice for constructing a dwelling and a life: “Build it on a rock. Build it on a stone. People gonna talk, so let ‘em say what they want. Sometimes you’ve got to stand alone. Build it on a rock, child, when you build your home.” Chris Bustillos’ keyboards and the harmonica are glorious.
Number three is the exact opposite, a ballad of wretched excess and bad, bad love: “I’ve been scared; I don’t know why. I’m taking chances with my very life. Something’s wrong inside my mind. You’ve got me living like I don’t care if I ever get to sleep at night. Lord knows I’m committing crime. Got me hard, got me high, you’ve got me living like I don’t care if I die.” Why isn’t this guilty-pleasure masterpiece in a heist movie or gambling flick on Netflix? “Before The Light Fades” is a raging inferno though its tempo is that of a slow burner. “Now and Forever” has a multilayered intro leading into a perfect slow-dance atmosphere.
Sick to death of lockdown and restrictions? Catch a Blue Contagion and eat hearty!