Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar
Cheryl Wheeler
1995 Rounder Record Corp.

TRACKS:

  1. Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar
  2. Does The Future Look Black
  3. School Girls
  4. TV
  5. The Rivers
  6. Further and Further Away
  7. Is It Peace Or Is It Prozac?
  8. Howl At The Moon
  9. The Storm
  10. So Far To Fall
  11. Makes Good Sense To Me
  12. Piper
  13. Time Taketh Away
  14. One Love

The seventh album from folk singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler, Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar is diverse in both style and subject matter. The songs range from wistful ballads to nostalgic autobiographical scenes to witty and sarcastic political commentary.

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL

Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar and Is It Peace Or Is It Prozac? are clearly about specific experiences Cheryl had. Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar is about old friends gathering on the front porch for the first time in years, passing around a guitar and having a singalong, and it it Cheryl "thanks the spirits, whatever they are, for friendships that last, and songs from the past, and Mrs. Pinocci's guitar." The CD booklet includes a picture of a letter from Fern Pinocci to Cheryl, dated Tuesday, September 20, 1993, in which she thanks Cheryl for a special evening and for restringing her guitar.

Cheryl tells us in the liner notes that Peace or Prozac is "about being nuts." While recording her previous album Driving Home, she says she seemed to have lost her mind. In the middle of a session with a therapist, the therapist got up to call a psychiatrist and secure an immediate appointment for her. "It was as if she'd said "Oh, my, I think you may actually be insane." About a month later, someone asked Cheryl if she felt better, and she replied, "Yes, but I don't know if it's peace or Prozac." A somewhat dark but laughworthy song was born. Less obviously, Further and Further Away was also inspired by a real-life event. When she wrote the song, Cheryl was thinking about walking down the hall in seventh grade with her boyfriend, Tommy Supick. She could remember minute details--exactly what he looked like, what he was wearing. And then she realized that the event had happened 30 years ago. Further and Further Away discusses the way time plays games with our memory.

SOCIAL COMMENTARY

TV and Makes Good Sense To Me poke fun at society. In TV Cheryl takes the voice of a bored technoholic in a power outage: "I can't do nothin', nothin' at all / Everything come from a switch on the wall...Don't you feel bad for me that I can't watch TV?" It's obvious that Cheryl doesn't share the speaker's opinion and rather thinks that most of what's on TV is crap and we'd be better off without it. In Makes Good Sense To Me she speaks as a charicature of an extreme right-winger ranting about gun laws, illegal aliens, rape, homosexuals, and abortion, finishing with "Our contract here is well defined / We can leave this bullshit far behind / With a stingy hand and a narrow mind / Makes good sense to me." It's very politically incorrect, but to be offended would be missing the point. The Rivers also falls under the social commentary category, but is solemn and mournful instead of satiric, saying, "What have we done to our planet? Now the rivers can poison us."

LOVE AND LOSS

Much of the album pertains to love and loss, of all kinds. School Girls (a duet with Jonathan Edwards) asks about the nature of love: "Who knows the nature and who holds the key... I'll never know if it's love or it's me." So Far To Fall is sung by a woman whose lover just left her, and she feels cheated and helpless and doesn't know what to do. Does The Future Look Black takes the opposite position: the singer has done something to damage a relationship and feels bad about it ("Your broken heart is breaking mine"). Time Taketh Away, about a dying parent, is especially powerful lyrically. One Love, the final track, is possibly the best song on the CD (in spite of its use of the irritatingly cliche ball and chain simile). Heartfelt, passionate, honest, and simple, with just Cheryl's clear vocals and harmonically strong guitar riffs, it has at times literally moved me to tears. The liner notes say it was added as an afterthought, but it's the perfect song to end the album.

OTHER

Howl At The Moon was written for and about Cheryl's border collie, James. She wonders what life would be like if she were a dog, and admires his "black and white" (the colors of his coat and his clear view of the world). The Storm is about, of course, a storm, and the magnetic, hypnotic power it has: "I never felt so drawn and bound / To the great unknown / Till it turned me around / And it sent me home." It includes some beautiful imagery and haunting harmonies. According to Bill Pringle, who maintains www.cherylwheeler.com, Piper is a song about itself. Cheryl was playing her guitar one evening, and came up with the tune. She liked it, so she decided to set it aside and write a song to it the next day. She laid in bed for about 20 minutes with the tune running through her head and realized that she wouldn't be able to sleep until she did something about it, so she got up and wrote the lyrics: "Early morning sunrise / come and pull the song from me / So I can turn away / and rest my tired eyes." The "you" in the song is the song, haunting her and keeping her awake.

As a whole, Mrs. Pinocci's Guitar is like a good friend. It can make you laugh, make you think, comfort you, and inspire you, and you like it more with every listening.

LYRICS

Diane and Billy been friends forever
They go back a long time
They grew up together
She called to tell us
He'd written from Rome
For the whole month of August
He'd be at home

So we went to see him
At her house one evening
In the place where they'd spent
all their summers as kids
We walked all around
In the small bayside town
Where his Dad's called the bingo
for thirty-five years

And later on that night
Under the porch light
Mrs. Pinocci brought her six string over
She said she'd been playin'
since she turned fifty-seven
And now I guess she's more than twenty years older

She played Yankee Doodle,
we sang along with her
She passed it around
and we all played a number
Neighbors and friends
dropped by for the singin'
And later a guy no one knew came to sit in

For the moon on the water
For the light from the stars
Oh I thank the spirits
Whatever they are
For friendships that last
And songs from the past
And Mrs. Pinocci's guitar

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