Cheryl Wheeler's songs have been covered by Kenny Loggins, Garth Brooks, Dan Seals, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea and other celebrity artists. - Photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Cate

Cheryl Wheeler expresses satire in song

So long as people annoy her, cliches amuse her and politics bait her, singer, song-writer and comedian Cheryl Wheeler will never be short of material.

The folk artist and social critic can find a song in just about any situation life throws her way.

"My songs are about all kinds of things — my neighbors, potatoes, cats and dogs, among other things," she says. "There's a magic element to songwriting, and I never know when I'm going to get one and what it will be about."

Wheeler's been known to write a song, perform it and throw it out the next day, which keeps her shows fresh and her audience on its toes.

Her most recent song is called "Shutcher Pie Hole." Wheeler says the phrase amused her, and she wanted to hear the audience yell it at her when they requested it.

"She's kind of a curmudgeon, if you know her," says her longtime manager Tony Gottlieb. "She has a kind of worm's eye view of life and is a little cynical."

Wheeler has two sides, according to Scott Alarik of The Boston Globe: "There is poet-Cheryl, writer of some of the prettiest, most alluring and intelligent ballads on the modern folk scene. And there is her evil twin, comic-Cheryl, a militant trend defier and savagely funny social critic."

While her humor might come off as brusque, Gottlieb doesn't short her of a tender, loving heart. He says she always leaves room in her shows for sad, stirring and serious songs.

"I was always impressed from early on in her career, her ability to go to the extreme of emotions so quickly and adeptly," he says. "She does it through her repertoire and raps between songs."

"I play, and sometimes I talk between songs, and sometimes it's funny," Wheeler says casually.

While her songs are billed as contemporary folk, you'll hear Latin beats, a pop tempo, a little bit of twang and sometimes dramatic, theater-style pieces, as in "Is It Peace or Is It Prozac?" Gottlieb says.

Wheeler, who lives just south of Boston, has been playing professionally for more than 40 years, beginning with a hootenanny at age 12.

Today, she has eight albums to her credit along with several collaborative projects. Many of her songs have been recorded by celebrity artists, including Kenny Loggins, Garth Brooks, Dan Seals, Suzy Bogguss and Kathy Mattea.

Wheeler will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 30, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Her producer and touring companion Kenny White will open the show and then accompany Wheeler on piano.

Tickets cost $20 in advance and are available at Music Coop in Ashland and www.stclairevents.com or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22, $10 for ages 12 through 17, at the door. See www.cherylwheeler.com for more information.

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