Aug. 15, 2008
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
“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
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
RECORDED AT: Sacred Heart Studio (Eric Swanson co-producer)
WEB SITE: www.davemehling.com