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Sunday May 28, 2017
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Cheryl Wheeler

 

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I've watched and admired Wheeler for years at various festivals. As much as this is possible while wearing a rumpled T-shirt and pants, she positively shone as MC of the 2006 Ann Arbor Folk Festival, flitting from deadpan skewering of fundamentalist Christians to warm, evocative songs about deep, true love and back to stories about brassieres with utter fluidity and grace. Here was my chance to watch her act up close, to ask her some questions, and, quite possibly, to thoroughly embarrass myself.

The thing about opening for Cheryl Wheeler is the conundrum about funny and clever songs: to do, or not to do. It doesn't really matter how funny and clever your songs are; if you sing them before Cheryl Wheeler takes the stage — well, let's just say that my funny and clever songs, such as they are, cowered like damp kittens in the back of my throat. I finished my set and left the stage.

After intermission, I found a seat in the back row and settled in for some quality Wheeler time. This Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter-comedian has spent decades fine-tuning her niche in the folk world; the result is an act that masterfully blends blisteringly on-target observational humor, simple storytelling, gorgeous guitar work, and beautiful, rich songs.

There's no "show" — it's just Wheeler, being herself. She talked about having an in-ground swimming pool installed at her home and the surprising tip she read in a magazine for looking slim in

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