After 11 releases in 22 years, you might assume Cheryl Wheeler has written songs about nearly everything. But her latest release proves she still has plenty of fresh insight. In the last two decades, Wheeler has had her songs recorded by major artists including Suzy Bogguss, Garth Brooks, Bette Midler, Dan Seals, and Linda Thompson. Still, the best versions of her songs are usually those she performs herself.
Defying Gravity is her first studio album of all-new material since 1999. It includes 12 new originals and one cover, Jesse Winchester’s “Defying Gravity.”
Picking a favorite on this album will leave even the most decisive listener with a case of the shakes. From the opener, “Since You’ve Been Gone,” to the final, “Blessed,” each combines seductive melodies with incisive lyrics. “Little Road” opens with plaintive lap steel followed by a low hand-drum pattern. Soon after, Cheryl’s fingerpicked Olsen guitar joins in, and then sings:
“How can there be trouble in this world
With the color in these hills, the blue October sky, this little road that winds along the river
Dusty barns and tractors in the fields
And families sit in front yards, or stand outside the churches
Kids are throwing footballs and pulling carts of pumpkins
And the morning sun is sparkling on the water”
Eat your heart out, Carl Sandburg.
Players include Duke Levine on lap steel, National, and electric guitar. Mastered by David Glasser on a soundstage as big as the Grand Canyon, Defying Gravity makes any good stereo sound like God. This is Wheeler’s best album of the millennium.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.