Terri Hendrix,
The Ring
(Wilory, 2002)

Acoustic strings and a bold harmonica bring an alt-country feel to "Goodbye Charlie Brown," the opening track on Terri Hendrix's sixth release, The Ring. It's a self-assured welcome that's more philosophical than the title might indicate. Written shortly after Charles Schulz's death and a television biography of the famed Peanuts' creator, she wondered if "his death represented the end of my youth." It's an upbeat, hopeful song ("It's tomorrow in Australia/This world is gonna stick around") wishing that finally Charlie Brown will "kick that ball and you hit the sky."

Once again, the harmonica helps bring home a folk/alt-country feel to the second track, "Spinning Off." While Hendrix's voice doesn't truly fit the country mode, there's a certain relaxed feel to her musical accompaniment that takes songs that normally might be pigeonholed as a mixture of wannabe pop and singer-songwriter styles and instead deposits them into alt-country, that new category in which some folk-pop songs are placed nowadays. On the third track, "I Found the Lions," Hendrix's voice yearns for a rock song, but she's still split between the rock and alt-country divisions.

Of course, the CD booklet photography also lends to that country mood. Wearing blue denim overalls and posing with her guitar in a vaguely rural setting, Hendrix may be aiming for that combination of a folk-rock artist in a Texan setting. Rock, folk, country, bluegrass or Tex-Mex? The Dixie Chicks cover her work, and a Tex-Mex-style composition is on the Putumayo collection Latin Playground.

Her opening guitar solos can reflect her different moods and musical styles. The opening notes on "Truth is Strange" are definitely alt-country, "From Another Planet" starts with a jazz feel, and "Long Time Coming" once again crosses pop with alt-country, while "Consider Me" brings in bluegrass. "Consider Me," co-written with Lloyd Maines, does have the feel of a crossover hit, with an upbeat chorus ("Do I kiss you like you need to be kissed?" Hendrix croons) and Sara Hickman's backing vocals adding to the mix.

Perhaps the most unusual song on the album is "Night Wolves." Hendrix states that after seeing the headline "Are Sleepless Nights a Sign of Normalcy" accompanying an article on night wolves, she and her bassist, Glenn Fukunaga, like Hendrix, a frequent victim of insomnia, composed this piece. This time, it's the electric guitar and bass that really set the mood. Hendrix sings the words "night wolves" almost as a question, her voice howling against background sounds in the night -- trains, wolves, dogs, conversations. That rising question gives away her San Antonio background; it's the first time that any "twang" really comes into play. Her accent appears again on "The Ring," a song that she half-sings and half-speaks against acoustic strings. About a ring her father crafted for her mother, it's the true "down home" selection in many ways.

If "The Ring" is down home, the final track, "Prayer for My Friends," is country gospel, no matter which deity she might be worshipping. It's an earnest, old-timey-style composition that reflects her overall honest feel, no matter what style she decides to implement at the moment. Her songs may not contain world- nor life-changing lyrics, but they're reflective, sometimes amusing, and confident.

- Rambles
written by Ellen Rawson
published 14 December 2002

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