Different Stripe

Cheryl Wheeler

Philo Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Some CDs sneak up on you. This one kicks you in the teeth from the first moment it hits the laser. The opening bars of "Northern Girl" was my first introduction to Cheryl Wheeler's shatteringly lovely voice, and it was like a shot of whisky; rich, complex, with overtones that defied analysis at the first hearing. I've listened to Different Stripe, her first greatest hits CD, pretty much constantly since then, and I still think I haven't heard it all -- but the discovery's been exhilarating, and I think I can safely say this woman is brilliant.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

She's a storyteller, a musician's musician; she's never had a straight job, but rather has remained fully immersed in her musicianship. Her concerts are legendary; apparently her between-patter is funnier than sin. I don't know about that; I do know the woman can sing like an angel and writes lyrics that bite like the devil.

The musicianship on Different Stripe is excellent; specific moments like the violin on "Arrow" (performed by fiddle great Mark O'Connor) and the heartbreaking piano intro on "Moonlight And Roses" set the essential simplicity of Wheeler's voice off perfectly. Production and engineering are excellent, despite disparate source tapes; some of these cuts are from a Capitol Records release in 1991 that was immediately dropped so the label could focus on promoting Garth (*yecch*) Brooks. (That's not to say Garth Brooks is bad. He's not, necessarily, but did the world really NEED another Garth Brooks record more than it needed Cheryl Wheeler?)

There are so many good tracks on this CD that I have no idea what to highlight -- except one track. See, everyone has a song or two that symbolizes a point in their past -- and at one point in my past my 'signature song' was "Addicted," performed by Dan Seals (who is, in my opinion, one of the better country music artists of the last twenty years). Well, damned if Cheryl Wheeler didn't write "Addicted," and this CD includes her original version. Yep. Still means something, some fifteen years later. If that doesn't explain why this works, you've either never been in love or you're brain-dead.

Look, I can sit here and babble about this CD all day, and I can't find a better way to summarize it than this: Cheryl Wheeler is brilliant, Different Stripe is brilliant, you should go buy it and support yet another real musician who's fallen through the big-label cracks.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Philo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.