Local songwriter Sue Gartland releases Ford Fairlane | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local songwriter Sue Gartland releases Ford Fairlane

Sue Gartland
Ford Fairlane

Local singer/songwriter Sue Gartland released her first album, Ford Fairlane, in September. The songs call to mind any number of folkie adult-contemporary artists, but her writing also establishes her personality, indulging her own quirks.

Gartland's songs are based on her voice and her acoustic guitar, with a mostly traditional folk-rock setup behind her (additional guitars, bass, mandolin, strings). Gartland's clean and clear vocals are those of a troubadour whose point is to tell a story, and who just happens to do it with a guitar in hand.

The tales Gartland tells often involve wandering and a lost sense of place -- themes common to American folk, but also personal to Gartland, given her nomadic upbringing in a military family. She sings about the past (the title cut is, as you might have guessed, about her father's car), about her own travels (both real and imagined) and about those of others ("Baptist From Belfast"). For good measure, she throws in a classic cover: Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone."

At her quirkiest, Gartland pontificates on the history of fast food in "Drive Thru" -- and while it's something of a novelty song, it also provides some social context for the rise of a cultural behemoth. That's what folk music is all about, and it proves that Gartland isn't far removed from her roots, even as she remains open to updating the old tropes.

Those who go for such contemporary folk scenesters as Patty Griffin and other songstresses of triple-A radio might do well to check out Gartland's disc -- or a live performance: She plays Club Café on Jan. 11.

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith