Sue Gartland
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Sue Gartland

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Solo Folk Americana


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"Local songwriter Sue Gartland releases Ford Fairlane"


By Andy Mulkerin

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.
- Pittsburgh City Paper

"Pittsburgh Calling:Sue Gartland"

Sue Gartland will celebrate the release of "Ford Fairlane" tonight at Club Cafe.

A capsule look at Pittsburgh bands making news.

Sue Gartland

New CD: "Ford Fairlane."

Sound: Lovely contemporary folk inspired by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Nancy Griffith.

Band: Doug Wilkin, guitars; Mark Weakland, percussion and drums; Art Gazdik, mandolin and violin; George Salamacha, bass; Nancy Deckant, vocals.

Important background: Gartland was born into a military family in Fort Campbell, Ky., and moved around a lot as a kid. Her family came to Pittsburgh in 1967 after her father retired from the military.

Sings about: Gartland sings about her father's old car on the title track. Seven of the songs were written as assignments for her Songwriters Circle, including "Drive Thru," a historical romp through the fast-food industry. "[It] was written from the assignment topic, 'Food.' The chorus was the first part of the song I got, and then after a little research about the fast-food industry I wrote the rest of the song." She also puts a feminine twist on the Johnny Cash classic "I Still Miss Someone."

Support from the scene: "I owe a lot to the musicians and songwriters I've met in the acoustic community," she says. "They welcomed me when I first started playing out and gave me opportunities to perform my songs. They always encouraged me and challenged me to be a better writer and musician."

Release show: 7 tonight at Club Cafe. Tickets are $5 at the door; $10 includes a CD.

-- Scott Mervis - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"Rock:What's In A Name?"

Give Sue Gartland credit for moxie, if nothing else: Her new album, "Ford Fairlane," immediately evokes an image of the execrable movie "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" that starred (sort of) Andrew Dice Clay.

Then again, Gartland, a New Kensington resident, is working in a different medium, with infinitely more pleasant results. "Ford Fairlane" features melodic songs that swing between folk and country, and her vocals have the quality of Mindy Smith or Nancy Griffith.

Gartland releases the disc tonight at Club Cafe, South Side. Admission for the 7 p.m. show is $5.

Details: 412-431-4950.

-- Rege Behe - Pittsburgh Tribune Review

"Singer- Songwriter Pursues Passion"

Sue Gartland has wanted to record her music for a long time.

Considering that the Plum resident's primary occupation was raising four children, she knew it would have to be a dream delayed.

But no longer.

With her kids grown, Gartland, a secretary by day, is able to make more time for her music.

Tonight at 7, the singer-songwriter officially introduces her first album, "Ford Fairlane," with a CD release party at Club Cafe on Pittsburgh's South Side. Backed by a band, she will perform all 14 of the record's folk-country songs.

It's been at least a 15-year journey, and Gartland is excited. "It's very gratifying to finally have my songs recorded so they can be heard. I'm very happy," she says. "When I'm writing and performing my songs, I feel complete, like I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."

People tell her she reminds them of artists like Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Nanci Griffith and Joni Mitchell.

Veteran Pittsburgh musician Doug Wilkin, who played on, recorded and produced the CD, praises Gartland as "the real thing." "She is an unpretentious talent who draws her songs from a real sense of self and life," he says. "Her songs and her performance style make people feel the emotions she feels while writing and playing them."

She likes to write about people, life, love, sadness and loneliness. "But I always try to add a little hope to all of my songs," she says.

Childhood experiences drew her to music. "When I was in the sixth grade, I heard the symphony for the first time and was overwhelmed at how beautiful it sounded," she says.

As a self-described "Army brat," she spent the first 11 years of her life moving around the country. "I think the travel and moving left me with an adventurous spirit that shows up in my songs," she says. And she adds that being a parent exposed her heart to a lot of emotions. "My children have inspired many songs. I've written at least one song for each of them," she says.

"Petal on a Rose" goes back 17 years -- when her daughter turned 13. "It was hard to see her growing up so quickly," Gartland says. Gartland sang the song on her daughter's wedding day as she and her father danced. "There wasn't a dry eye in the place," Gartland says.

The artist has a particular fondness for the album's title song because it connects her with her family. "It's a song about my father's world that he shared with my mother, my brother and me as we moved from place to place as a military family," she says.

Gartland shows her humorous side on the song "Drive Thru," in which she provides a brief and, she says, "fairly accurate" account of the history of the fast food industry. She made her xylophone debut on the number.

Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Stacy Mates performed background on the song, doing her best to channel the Andrews Sisters.

Mates performs occasionally with Gartland as part of the Riveting Roses, a loose collective of local female singer-songwriters. "(Gartland's) got a classic sound, great lyrics and a sweetness in her personality that comes through in her music," Mates says.

"Her lyrics and melodies are simple, yet seem to circle around and hint at a deeper meaning," she says.

Gartland has been told that her music is soothing and calming. "I hope that people come away feeling better after listening to my songs, and possibly my lyrics will make a connection with some part of their life or experience that will stay with them," she says.

After Gartland has an idea and a melody, she says she starts writing until the song feels right. She used to depend on inspiration for songs, but since she joined the Calliope Songwriters Circle, which meets the first Tuesday of each month at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, that has changed. "We get a monthly assignment, and that has pushed me to write more. So I'm looking for song ideas from things I read, phrases I hear, experiences and even dreams, then I pick up my guitar and something will start to come," she says.

Nine of the CD's songs were written in the past four years. She wrote "Lillian" and "Baptist From Belfast" more than 10 years ago. "The older songs I chose for the CD were ones I've been playing out for a while and people love hearing them, so I put them on the album," she says.

Rex Rutkoski can be reached at or 724-226-4664. - Valley News Dispatch


Sue's CD titled “Ford Fairlane” features 13 original songs and a Johnny Cash tune. Earlier projects include an EP recorded in 2000, and songs on compilation albums released by the Pittsburgh Songwriters’ Circle in 2005, 2006 and 2007.



Born into a military family Sue Gartland spent most of her childhood years moving from place to place until her family finally settled in Pittsburgh, PA. All that moving provided the groundwork for her writing. Her parents bought her a guitar from a pawn shop as a young girl and she wrote her first song at seventeen. Her early musical influences include the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Melanie and Carol King. Sue is married and a mother to four children. Now that the kids are grown she has more time to give to songwriting, performing and recording her music. She is an active member of the Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle and performs in and around the Pittsburgh area.

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