The Harvest

Erica Wheeler

(SSRC 1237)

Signature Sounds Recording Company
PO Box 106
Whately, MA 01093
1-800-694-5354

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Paula Gregorowicz
(paulag@enter.net)

Some listeners give a CD a quick thumbs down if it doesn't grab them immediately. Here's a cure: stop, smell the roses, give Erica Wheeler's The Harvest your complete attention. The more I listen, the more I find the album studded with poetic gems. With some lyrically-oriented singer-songwriters, the poetry is puzzling and frustrating. Erica's new material, in contrast, is as clear is it's poetic and precise.

Produced and arranged by bluegrass queen Laurie Lewis, this CD features a noteworthy cast of musicians behind Erica's vocals and guitar, from the rousing fiddle of Darol Anger on Spirit Lake to the melancholic cello of Mark Summer on Autumn.

My instant favorite is Spirit Lake, an upbeat song that features Tom Rozum on mandolin and Anger on fiddle. The song describes a sacred, wild place where you can go to lay life's troubles down. Another wild place comes up in Arrowheads. While the singer paints the beauties of the Rio Grande Canyon, she's also discovering pieces of the past and love.

In the melancholy Autumn, Wheeler looks at the face of nature and finds human nature:

If I had the grace of autumn
then I'd know just what to do
I'd hold on till the time was right
and let go with brilliant hues

More direct and less metaphorical, The Mystery points out that there is often no logical reasons why we relate and love the people we do. Some things just "are," and life's mysteries lie not in the knowing and explaining but in the experiencing and being. Barbara Higbie's piano and Summer's cello lend a haunting feel to Goodnight Moon which is about a daughter who reminisces about childhood while lamenting how she and her mother have drifted apart. She wishes she could travel some past roads over again.

Wheeler nicely balances the deeper songs with a little humor and straight-ahead passion. Sober Harley Guys, a whimsical song about Erica seeing a few hog-riders in front of the local ice cream parlor bends an old stereotype. Hot might get you ready for a cold shower, with Todd Phillips grooving on bass and Garth Webber playing some real cool electric guitar.

The Harvest, Colorado Town, and Maryland County Road round out Erica's material with some of her own, real-life experiences and her interpretation of a newspaper story. A beautiful accapella version of Claudia Schmidt's Quiet Hills rounds out the disc.

A mixture of lyrical beauty and emotional honesty, with a sampling of styles, from mellow and acoustic to hot bluegrass, make The Harvest an album you'll listen to again and again.

Edited by Steve Brooks
(frog@io.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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