Sue Menhart on Love: ‘Let It In’


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the Saddle (or is it Guitar Case?)


A few short months ago I promised major changes were coming to this blog, and to me, though I couldn’t reveal them because they involved relocation and a job change.

Okay, so I over-hyped a life transition. But, to be honest, my songwriting, and blogging, had taken a back seat to that overdue evolution for longer than I care to admit.

Well, I’m back to say, Yes, please come here to find songwriting stories and inspiration. Too much time has passed undocumented since I wrote about what moves me most in life and the comrades who likewise are making something of their art.

I commit here and now to breathing life back into both my music and this blog. As a show of good faith, I even ponied up the twenty bucks to add mp3 files for another year. I also published pix here of the wall in a shared study dubbed “the music room.”

So, what exactly is this momentous transition? you ask. In fact, it’s been a life-changer.

I have moved back to Connecticut and am developing a new freelance writing career along with a future with my lover — the subject of much long-distance angst until now and a few songs as well. I am also exploring new open mic venues, starting with one in Cheshire at C.J. Sparrow Pub and Eatery, where Ken Safety’s dynamic house band hosts.

And I’m trying to figure out what exactly to do with all the songs that have emerged since the lovable Mike Bailey, irrepressible Mike Ball and irreplaceable Ron Gletherow blessed me with production of the CD, “Love Is Hard,” an unfathomable six years ago.

As impetus for this re-dedication, of sorts, I am blessed to be collaborating again with bass guitarist Joe Cavanagh for the 10th anniversary of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Society’s Folk Festival at Sailfest. SAMS was the impetus for my musical growth as a songwriter and as a performer. We play Sunday, July 10 at 1 along with a host of other talented performers.

The newly resurrected Wailing City website has all the details.

Please continue to follow my songwriting musings and those of others here. We only go around once – how could I abandon my domain name, “userloseit”? Too symbolic. Too meaningful. As are you, my friends. Thanks for visiting. Come back soon!

 

Pulling Out the Songbooks


Songbooks

Don’t you just need to grab those compilations some days and play Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” all the way through just for old time’s sake? Or “Thank You” in Led Zepplin Complete? or “O Holy Night”? Or Jim Croce’s “Photographs & Memories”?

Writing originals is daunting some days but getting favorite tunes top of mind can help inspire new material. Working on one now and damn if it doesn’t start out like a song by Kris Delmhorst before veering into another dimension.

Made it to the SAMS Shoreline Acoustic Music Society gathering earlier this month! Missing that here in Pawtucket, but going to venture out soon. Who’s with me?

Settling In


guitar

Nomads probably make music, but it must be hard, uprooting all the time and trying to focus on creating in a changing environment.

After 12 years in one place, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I left home for college, it was time to move to a new place, in a new direction. This takes extra hours and energy, and even now that I’m settling in, there are chores like motor vehicle updates to attend to, a stray box or two left to sort through and unpack.

What shapes the songs that I expect will continue to emerge from my head and heart as Rhode Island becomes home are the mementos left after shedding so much stuff. A framed photograph of my teen-age mother smirking as my grandmother helps her light a cigarette, from those light hearted days when cigarette smoking was a badge of renegade coolness. Mom has a couple of songs written for her already, as does Dad, and their spiritual presence years after they passed continues to give me solace and, somehow, inform and support the space to create.

A place has yet to be found for my guitar sundries — picks, capos and that silly but essential tool needed to unwind strings when restringing the guitar. But the music stand has found its place in front of a living room window. The signed Janis Ian poster from her Garde Arts Center performance and the Sinner’s Circle flier from my New London, Conn., days adorn one wall, flanking a metal sculpture of a guitar that I picked up with my partner, Lee, in Chester, Vt.

And the other night, quietly, I lifted my Ovation from its stand and plucked out a few tunes. Just because I could.

My new home is smaller than the Rogers St. house. Crammed with the most pertinent leftover effects of my life. A space awaiting inspiration and transformation. A space in which this blog, started in January of 2011, will continue to be crafted.

Please follow me here when you can. More songs, reviews, and links to amazing songwriters, events and places will follow!

Namaste.

Music making, what we’re after


Guitar

So I’m sitting in my living room, wondering why I make music.

The beauty of wandering mentally while you’re sitting in front of an empty google search box is, you can plug in and see what comes up.

Here’s what came up: Flavorwire’s take on it: 20 Brilliant Musicians on Why They Make Music.

Here’s my take, after reading theirs:

Some days, my heart beats fast but my mind is slow and all I want to do is jump out of my skin.

Other days, I can sit quietly for hours, rummaging for chords like an old beggar scrounging in his pocket for a quarter.

If I let my heart open, and my head clear, I can see my nerve endings trembling under my skin and I know there’s a song aching to get out. If I open my mouth naively, innocently, without thought, the words will come, and I’ll scribble what strikes me as meaningful, chased by notes plucked on the guitar.

It can only be done when nobody’s looking.

It can only be done after dark. Or before sunrise. In the in-between times of life.

It can only be done once, except that every new wish that oozes out in the form of a melody begins again, turning itself inside out, like an acrobat playing tricks, as if for the first time, as if there’s an audience who cares, who hasn’t gotten up and left the building.

Music makes me, no two ways about it.