"There are no signposts up there and no way of knowing where to go," said singer/songwriter Terri Hendrix. In a hypnotic Texan drawl, Hendrix described her first experience in Colorado, getting completely lost while trying to navigate Rampart Range Road.
Luckily that experience did not put her off and Hendrix will play Colorado again this weekend. She is in the middle of a series of gigs promoting her seventh album, The Art of Removing Wallpaper, a recording that explores themes ranging from personal growth to political hypocrisy with a focus on truth-telling.
Hendrix is not afraid to say or sing what she thinks. The San Antonio native speaks plainly; her lyrics are direct, perhaps too direct for some who think that citizens should rally behind the president when the country's at war, a game she refuses to play.
"I have to speak. I am pro-soldier, pro-troops, but anti-war," Hendrix said. Her latest CD metaphorically references the uncovering of truth in its title. Lies distort reality, like layers of wallpaper in an old house hide its original beauty. It is an art to strip it away.
Calling San Marcos, Texas, her home and recording in nearby Austin, Hendrix not only values her independence, but she also refuses to conform to the music world's desire for classification. Her role models are Dolly Parton and Ella Fitzgerald and songs by Supertramp top her list of favorites. She has been able to avoid being packaged or "market focused" because she owns her own record label, Wilory Records, and primarily distributes her CDs through her Web site. With a registered fan base of 50,000, she's generated enough sales of Wallpaper and other titles to enable her to live, write and tour as she chooses.
The importance of that freedom was brought home by the vitriolic backlash Hendrix witnessed when her producer/ business manager and longtime music collaborator, Lloyd Maines' daughter, Natalie, of the Dixie Chicks, was attacked for criticizing President Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq. Country radio stations blacklisted the Chicks' music, organizations sponsored public CD burnings and the band members received threats when they came to her support.
Hendrix was shocked and dismayed. "It's funny how things can get warped," she said. "Criticizing our government is not anti-American. It is our right, our obligation and it's what so many people have fought and spilled their blood for."
It's a tradition the 36-year-old singer-songwriter embraces. In a voice that combines elements of Michelle Shocked, Lucinda Williams and Jewel's haunting melodic clarity, her songs move through a range of styles from country and gospel to pop and blues. Hendrix includes a quirky cover of rapper LL Cool J's "I Need Love" on the CD. Acoustic guitar predominates in the background and a slide guitar makes an occasional appearance, but it is Hendrix's voice that drives the CD forward.
In spite of current politics, she's an optimist.
"To get to the next peak you have to go through a valley," she said -- wisdom she might have gained out on Rampart Range Road.
-- Wayne Young
capsule Terri Hendrix Thunderbird Inn, 17801 County Road 1, Florissant. Saturday, Oct. 16 719/748-3968
Hillside Gardens and Nursery, 1006 S. Institute Sunday, Oct. 17, 2 p.m. Tickets $8 in advance or $10 at the door Call 339-3293 or visit www.hillsidegardens.net
Songwriting and Music Business workshop Swallow Hill, 71 E. Yale Ave., Denver Saturday, Oct. 16, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Call 303/777-4394 or visit www.swallowhill.com/index.htm.