Singer, songwriter, musician, or band leader … whatever you call her, Sue Menhart knows a little something about music. And she knows even more about love.
“Love Ain’t Hard” is her latest compilation, a bluesy mix of songs that touch on love lost, love re-discovered, love that lasts – and love that just plain explodes! Based in Stonington, Menhart says the title’s meaning is pretty simple: “Just have to get that chip off your shoulder and let it in. Life’s short.”
Leap, for instance, into the power of the music itself, strongest and most poignant in “Can’t Feel the Rain.”
Listen to this:
“Highway’s one more mile,” she says. “What am I doing this for? I can’t feel the rain no more.”
A traveling troubadour? a lover of dreams, still chasing them, but numb from the weariness of the journey?
Her gritty take on loving that journey, backed by piano, guitar, and drums, is a lament. “Where did my fire go?” she wonders as sax takes over instrumentally, underscoring the gut-wrenching message. And as she belts out, “I can’t feel it!” you can feel it — the passion, the frustration, the endurance, and yes, the love.
So is the CD’s title also tongue-in-cheek? A sort of sarcastic disclaimer for someone who knows more than she’s letting on?
Well, if you’re thinking this song represents the CD’s main groove, you’d be wrong. As moving and insightful as “Can’t Feel the Rain” is, it’s the tribute to the Brian Wilson song, “Party on the Beach,” that has more of the vibe Menhart is after: “Just good old fashioned fun.”
Judge for yourself:
“When you see Brian Wilson … trying to have some fun … have a party on the beach!” she demands. And who couldn’t resist that invitation?
As a whole, “Love Ain’t Hard” is a solid, cantankerous, rocking good time, with a kind of earthy realism mixed in on the moodier numbers.
Here’s one more taste of Sue’s wisdom, couched in wonder in this beautiful ballad, “Moving On”:
“Wherever you roam, you’re never alone,” she promises. Despite life’s lonely, alienating tricks.
Whether the song’s tone is heavy or light, Menhart’s lyrics are so straightforward, yet heartfelt, analysis seems disingenuous.
As for the voice, it’s got depth, rasp, conviction, and resolve. A resolve, in fact, patterned after the sax that lifts, accompanies, underscores and capitulates on most of the tracks. Credit saxophonists Don Packer and and Tommy Mahfoo with getting it right.
Besides Menhart’s contributions on electric guitar, band members include husband Kevin Clark on drums, Dave Foret on bass,
Don Bergeron on lead electric guitars and Dan Spano on the keyboard.
Persistence, plus patience, produced “Love Ain’t Hard.” Dennis Walley, who runs Stone Wall Studios in North Stonington, CT, recorded, mixed and mastered all the songs.
“Half the songs were recorded three years ago and the other half earlier this year,” Menhart recalled. “We released ‘Can’t Feel the Rain’ from that first batch in 2015 and it won a New London Whalie Award for Best Roots Rock Performance. We took a break in between due to band members’ illnesses and I think somebody quit and came back, lol. Dennis was able to meld it all together.”
And meld it, he did – with the kind of fabulous finesse reserved for true artists.
To order this CD, visit Sue’s website.
And to catch her live, riffing on artists like Bonnie Raitt and the Tedeschi Trucks Band, check out Menhart-Bergeron Acoustic Madness on Dec. 27 at the Steak Loft in Mystic. And request an original. “Love Ain’t Hard” is just the tip of the iceberg in this woman’s repertoire.