Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
ANN ARBOR – Fresh off her stint as emcee for the Folk Festival in Ann Arbor last month, singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler returns with her unique musical style that jumps from emotionally intense to uproariously comedic.
Wheeler’s newest album, “Defying Gravity,” provides a lush musical backdrop to seemingly real and profound lyrics. On “Since You’ve Been Gone,” Wheeler compares herself to a “nervous 9th grader” before drowning in the sorrowful chorus and then explores an all-too-familiar terrain in the second verse.
In a voice that’s reminiscent of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s earthy, folk vocals, she sings, “Not to complain, we’re just bereft, not deserted/Lord knows your rest was deserved/It’s just your absence is present in all that I do.” Wheeler is referring to the passing of her father, one of several topics “Gravity” explores.
Time after time, Wheeler lets listeners into her world, giving not just glimpses but realistic poetic visuals that discuss her growing up as a tom-boy (“I Know This Town”), to moving to New England in 1976 (“Northern Girl”) and grieving over an ending relationship while throwing back a few beers (“Sylvia Hotel”).
The last two tracks on “Gravity” – one about the annoyance of cell phones on “It’s The Phone” and another about a shitty flight during “On The Plane” – give a better representation of what a Wheeler show is like. “Your carry-on stuff has to fit in this box/If it doesn’t and you make us wait/You’ll be pulled from the line with a hook from behind/And then beaten and shot at the gate,” she sings.
Wheeler breathes new life into these songs, along with many other humorous unrecorded ditties, when performed live. Among her tongue in cheek song catalog: “Cow Pattern Clothes,” “Is It Peace Or Is It Prozac?” and “(I Can’t Watch) TV.” She’s even filmed a comedic live concert video called “What Do I Care? I Don’t Have Any Kids Construction Company.”
Wheeler also examines political and social issues in her music. Shortly after the Columbine High School shooting, she released “If It Were Up To Me,” which discussed her anti-gun position and gained nationwide attention. Her label, Rounder Records, ran a promotional campaign to donate to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence each time the song was played on Adult Album Alternative radio stations.
Now touring the country, Wheeler first performed live after she found an old toy ukulele in a neighbor’s attic and played it to her mother who was taking a bath. While she’s been writing since 17, her first gig was at age 12 at a Hootenanny-type show.
A year later she received a real ukulele and then a guitar. Then she went on to bigger and better things: Timonium, Maryland’s Steak and Ale Restaurant, where she played over their only PA system. But, after repeated interruptions that went something like, “Jones, party of four…Jones, part of four,” she convinced them to invest in an additional PA system.