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Cheryl Wheeler 

Tuesday, March 15; Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue)

In some respects Cheryl Wheeler is the archetypal New England folkie: personal, lyrical, resolutely acoustic, frequently witty, most often so absorbed in the travails of love and travel you'd think she'd never escape Inner Navel, U.S.A. And yet only her Northeast drinking buddy (and Rounder labelmate) Bill Morrissey matches her talent and intelligence, though Wheeler (who actually grew up in Maryland) can out-pick (and likely out-drink) him. Her finger style is fast and deft, the sound of some golden arachnid weaving by blind instinct, her voice as clear and luminous and tense as dew caught on fine-spun webs. Wheeler, who has been writing songs from the age of seventeen, has never kept a day job. Her songs have been cut by Bette Midler, Juice Newton, Linda Thompson and even Suzy Bogguss, who had a Top 10 hit with "Aces" in 1992.

Onstage, Wheeler cuts any late-night comedian (her ode to classical cellular ring tones is like sing-along Woody Allen) and then cuts to the heart's quick with lines like "When we were in love, or whatever it was/We tore apart their believing hearts/ Just to ride that passion in" or "Your absence is present in all that I do/In the sun on the field, in the poem I keep saying." Yeah, she's a sensitive singer-songwriter, but she's as gifted and stirring as they come.

Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 314-773-3363 for more information.

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