Denfeld News

Aug. 15, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

Dave Mehling's musings stretch well beyond his modest years
By John Ziegler

Someone described Dave Mehling as an “old soul” before I heard any of his work. Later, when I heard mixes of things that would become How Do I Make You Lonesome? I pictured a mid-40s, slightly grizzled cuss with a paunch who looked at the world with a squint.

Not much later, when I actually met Mehling, I almost gave myself whiplash from the double-take. There was this little kid with a guitar case, looking as if he was skipping sixth-grade gym class to stop by. I couldn’t help but be boggled by the schism of maturity in his art and youthfulness in his appearance. How does this fellow write these great songs?

Well, he does and he does it well. Mehling, now all of 22 years old and recently graduated from college, has written hundreds of songs. Many deal with his own inconsistencies, trying to explain (even to himself) things that he’s nervous and concerned about.

“Idaho” is about life’s changes and the importance of rolling with the punches. It was written about a friend who was about to move to said state “… oh Idaho, you’re calling his name, things won’t be the same … save the road for another life, that’s OK, you’ll do all right.” Before the song concludes, we learn that his friend has a child and doesn’t make the move, but the beauty is in the tension that Mehling creates.

The subtle, casual moments experienced in life are at the core of “It’s All Been Done.” There is the sense that Mehling is resigned to the fact that millions of love songs have pretty thoroughly covered the topic and this isn’t going to change the world, but a song from a walk in the rain with his girlfriend with the generic alt-country guitar chords makes a nice element in the overall tone of the record.

A shifting musical canvas, under and around the lyrics, is present through much of the disc. “This Is How The World Will End” starts with a lone acoustic guitar that gives way to a full rhythm section and the very nonlinear lyrics (almost free word association) that includes “rug burn take my soul, I’ve given you everything, still I do not know where your fingers lie … I cannot believe you unless you lie.” Drone-y electric guitar gives way to a snaky guitar solo that electrifies the song tag.

In younger days, everyone has great expectations, and Mehling’s “Setting Sun” elliptically offers the encouragement to not let those hopes and aspirations fall by the wayside. The musical fragrance has a McCartney-esque flavor, with lyrics about “Mrs. Plum who works in a restaurant” and references a vibraphone and a sousaphone. Again, the musical texture goes from a taciturn feel to full-tilt boogie, with Mehling doing a Pete Johnson imitation in an almost stride piano fashion.

“Break Love” was written (without spite or vindictiveness) about letting go of one love for another. It’s almost like a journal entry about the experience one goes through in the passage of life. Mehling captures it, then puts his magnifying glass on it.

Dave Mehling is leaving Duluth with a final show this weekend. He’s off to bigger and better, and he deserves it.

WHO: Dave Mehling
CD TITLE: How Do I Make You Lonesome?
GENRE: Indie pop rock
RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Jeff Buckley, Jeff Tweedy, Nina Simone
MEMBERS: Dave Mehling (piano, Rhodes piano, guitar and vocals), George Ellsworth (bass, backing vocals), Jeramie Olson (drums and percussion)
RECORDED AT: Sacred Heart Studio (Eric Swanson co-producer)

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