Melbourne artist Kimberley Wheeler played piano and clarinet at school, then picked up a bass guitar while at university, joining a heavy metal band before discovering bluegrass music. This led Wheeler to explore and immerse herself in traditional and bluegrass music, to the extent that she has served for many years on the Australasian Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association (ABOTMA) including a stint as President. Recently Wheeler has been producing music, including for duo Corn Nut Creek.
Now, with her new project Kimberley Wheeler’s Roadside Holiday, she has released the EP Pokerface Limbo, which is five songs that sound like they could be sung to the listener alone in front of a fire, an exchange of stories and secrets, but which are also so clearly entertaining that they belong on a stage.
The opening track, ‘Merry-Go-Round’, sets a theme for the EP: the cycle of life, and mostly trying to be cheerful (or, at least, accepting) about it. Fourth track ‘Watching Over Joan’ makes it more personal, where the protagonist sings in the opening line, ‘I held you, my daughter, from the womb to the altar/From the altar to the graveyard and a place to call your own’. Threaded throughout are the bargains we make with ourselves, and others, as we try to stay on that merry-go-round of life. What Wheeler expresses is deep but it’s delivered in a way that feels intimate, and her voice is wry and knowing and emotional by turns.
The EP may be only five tracks long but playing it on repeat actually doesn’t feel like you’re hearing the same five songs over and over – instead it feels like a long, epic odyssey with Wheeler at the helm of the ship, and a course charted which may or may not be kept but which will be compellingly interesting along the way.