First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2003, Volume 10, #6
Written by John Metzger
Despite a short stint at the Capitol Nashville label, Cheryl Wheeler has drifted under the mainstream radar for the better part of two decades. Known for the comedic wit of her socio-political commentaries as well as the emotional resonance of her heartbreaking ballads, Wheeler has attracted a sizeable cult-like following across the country. Different Stripe makes an attempt at being a career retrospective, and although its 19 songs do touch on all but one of her albums, itís not as complete as it could have been. The biggest error, here, is that it focuses solely on her country-folk ballads, while ignoring her more rebellious statements. The end result is that no matter how pretty and elegant it is, the album becomes a bit monotonous, sounding like Alison Krauss + Union Station without the intricate underlaying of bluegrass instrumentation. Thatís not to say that Different Stripe doesnít contain a few gems. Wheeler is a terrific lyricist as evidenced by 75 Septembersí reflections of an elder, the scenic beauty of When Fall Comes to New England, the depiction of the passing of life on Quarter Moon, the bouncy love song Gandhi/Buddha (sung with Marc Cohn), and the sorrow-filled Sylvia Hotel (with teary-eyed pedal steel from Larry Campbell). Overall, however, Different Stripe showcases many of her more ordinary songs, making Wheeler appear to be a typical, one-dimensional songwriter who takes herself too seriously, something her fans obviously know not to be true. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box