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Erica Wheeler

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The literary sensitivity of New England is combined with the spiritual vision of the American West by Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter Erica Wheeler. Her original songs inspired the New England Folk Almanac to observe that " of (Wheeler's) greatest strengths is her ability to temper love, light and goodness with darkness and wistfulness." A self-taught guitarist, Wheeler grew up listening to folk-pop vocalists such as Judy Collins and Joan Baez. After seeing the documentary film Harlan County U.S.A., Wheeler was so inspired by folk singer Hazel Dickens that she bought a songbook, 1001 Folk Songs, and began to take music more seriously. She subsequently taught herself to play songs from the repertoire of Cat Stevens. After writing a few original songs in high school, Wheeler focused on songwriting in college. Although she enrolled in Massachusetts' Hampshire College in hopes of becoming a wildlife biologist, her studies convinced her that she had more to say as a writer. Wheeler's skills as a performer were sharpened by her appearances at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA. As a frequent opening act, Wheeler not only gained exposure, but she learned showmanship by watching headliners like Bill Morrissey, Patty Larkin and Shawn Colvin. In 1989, Wheeler released a ten-song cassette titled Strong Heart. Her first full-length recording, From that Far, was released in 1992 and produced by Darlene Wilson. It included stellar musicians such as Johnny Cunningham (fiddle), Doug Plavin (percussion), Peter Calo (acoustic slide and electric guitars), and Diane Ziegler and Cosy Sheridan (harmony vocals). Shortly after placing first in the troubadour contest at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival in 1995, Wheeler recorded her second CD, The Harvest. Produced by bluegrass fiddler and bandleader Laurie Lewis, the album featured top-notch instrumentalists including Darol Anger, Barbara Higbie and Todd Phillips. Wheeler's third CD marks her first collaboration with producer Steve Miller (no relation to the musician), who previously produced two CDs by Dar Williams. ~ Craig Harris

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