Terry Hinely and Glasnots,
Re-Elect the Moon
(Scuffletown, 1997)

On March 6, 1998, an uninsured and unlicensed motorist ran a red light and struck the vehicle carrying Glasnots co-founder Terry Hinely, killing him. This tragedy robbed the world of one of the few musicians capable of playing the glass harmonica. For nine years, Hinely had entertained attendees at Renaissance festivals in Texas and Oklahoma by drawing ethereal notes from crystal glasses filled with varying amounts of water, and to listen to his music is to understand why Mozart wrote music specifically for this instrument.

Glasnots produced five albums before Hinely's untimely death, and Re-Elect The Moon contains more than 71 minutes of highlights from those efforts, and there's some truly amazing stuff here. Of the 24 tracks here, 16 are original and eight are traditional pieces, and all manage to convey a unique sound. Perhaps most striking are the most familiar of the traditional selections, such as "Lord of the Dance," "Amazing Grace" and "Scarborough Faire." Familiar yes, but when the pure notes of glass touch these, they take on a decidedly fey quality. The selections, with their distinct melodies and deliberate pacing lend themselves perfectly to this instrumentation. The same holds true for "Don't Walk On The Glass," a Hinely original from 1991 that is saucy and frivolous and everything else that conveys a giddy excitement. "Ode To Twinkle" is a clever, audacious medley that transposes Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" with the children's nursery rhyme "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star," two bits of music that have more in common than you'd think. 'Tis great fun.

Another traditional reworking, "Carrickfergus," teams Hinely with his Glasnots partner and brother, Donal, on vocals and guitar. This time the glasses play backup to the guitar, but the combination works wonderfully -- the two sounds are so distinct that each one enhances the other. Donal's vocals, too, seem to fit right in, conveying just the right degree of drunken melancholy on lyrics like "And I'm drunk today/And I'm seldom sober/A handsome rover/From town to town." A real gem, as good or better than any other version out there.

"Joshua Tree" is another original composition that works much in the same way as "Carrickfergus." This time, though, Terry joins Donal on guitar and vocals, while leaving the glass harmonica to David Gentry. The result is a more aggressive sound than most other Glasnots songs, although the song retains the unconventional lyrics the Hinely's favor: "Joshua tree, Joshua tree/Won't you come and hang with me/I don't know what the shamans say/But I love the view this way."

Glasnots' arrangements lend themselves to a kind of wistful sadness, and that's taken full advantage of on many of the tracks. "Onion Field" carries weepy tones, with clever metaphors of life repeating themselves in different forms throughout the song: "Living in an onion field/You got to learn to cry/Never going to keep your eyes dry."

Not quite folk, and not quite traditional, Glasnots had created a sound wholly unique unto itself. Without a doubt, the loss of Terry Hinely was felt most acutely by his family, his brother, his wife and daughter. But music lost a great contributor as well, a distinctive artist with a distinctive sound. Re-Elect The Moon just goes to show what we'll all be missing.

[ by Jayme Lynn Blaschke ]