Thursday, October 15, 2020

Guitar Heroes: Scrap Metal

Gretchen Menn: Scrap Metal

The guitar, of course, is the signature instrument of rock music, and it should also come as no surprise that over the years, I’ve written about, or at least mentioned, most of my favorite guitarists on this blog and elsewhere. Never Eddie Van Halen, whose untimely loss inspired this theme, but he’s a guitarist whose talent I appreciated, but I never was a big fan of the music he created (and it was nice to see that most serious obituaries of EVH mentioned one of my true favorites, Allan Holdsworth, as a primary influence on him. Which sounds weird--as if I was happy that EVH died. I’m not.) 

So, rather than tread down another well-worn path, I decided to write about a great guitarist, about whom I know very little—Gretchen Menn. I first learned about Menn when my wife showed me something in a Smith College publication about her. Menn, a proud member of the class of ’97 (my wife is ’82; my daughter is ’15), was a music major at Smith, and it led me to check out her music. And it turns out that, in pretty much every way, Menn is a real badass.

According to her website bio, Menn, whose father was the editor in chief of Guitar Player magazine, studied classical guitar before moving on to rock and jazz. At Smith, she “convinced a professor to allow her to launch a special studies project on the music of Frank Zappa. Her analyses of “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress” showed an interest in genre-bending composition that would manifest later in her original instrumentals.” 

After college, she went to flight school, flying regional jets before turning to a music career, playing in a few different projects before releasing her debut album, Hale Souls, from which our featured song, “Scrap Metal” comes. It’s a classic guitar shredding showcase, and as a shredder, Menn takes a backseat to no one. But she is much more than just a technical wizard. Again, quoting from her website, “[s]he has studied, in equal parts, the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Morse, Frank Zappa, and Jimmy Page.” 

Speaking of Jimmy Page, Menn is the guitarist, playing Page’s parts, in Zepparella, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band. You can see her here channeling Page, bowed guitar and all:

In 2016, Menn released her second solo album, Abandon All Hope, a musical adaptation of Dante’s Inferno. Not surprisingly, it is a little more complex and varied in tone than her debut, and includes strings and other instruments (and a chorus), all orchestrated by Menn. Here’s the first track, “Shadows.”


john saba said...

thanks for post

Anonymous said...

The guitar music has entered legend, one of the best musical instruments in the world.