Now Playing: Terri Hendrix’s ‘Talk To A Human (Project 5.3)’

Terri Hendrix
Image courtesy of Terri Hendrix

Performer Terri Hendrix is prepping for the release of a new full-length studio album. It’s called Talk To A Human (Project 5.3) and it drops on September 6th. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Terri Hendrix

Photo by Kim Maguire

Texas-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Terri Hendrix can play the guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. She has managed to release almost one album every year since the release of her 1996 premiere platter Two Dollar Shoes. Her rockin’ resume also includes over three decades as a live performer and was recently deemed one of Texas’ 20 essential contemporary singer-songwriters by “Acoustic Guitar” Magazine.

She also co-composed the Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks’ instrumental “Lil’ Jack Slade.” She scored a star on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame. Other honors include the Art of Peace Award from Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, and a 2015 induction into the well-known Women’s Hall of Fame located in San Marcos, Texas.

Signature sound

She is often pigeonholed as an Americana/folk artist. The truth is she obviously prefers just to write songs and doesn’t stress about staying true to one single genre. Her signature sound is a mix of multiple musical genres including Americana, blues, country, folk, pop, jazz (and more recently an occasional trace of bluegrass and Latin).

Talk To A Human (Project 5.3)

Talk To A Human (Project 5.3) is dedicated to Tammi Hendrix. It’s part of what she refers to as a “sonic marathon” named “Project 5.” The project, as described on her website, is something that once completed will include “four thematically-linked albums and a memoir.”

The first part was the 2016 disc named Love You Strong. The second part was The Slaughterhouse Sessions, “a politically charged collection of acoustic gospel blues.” The next two albums are the electronica EP titled Who Is Ann? and this new release. Hendrix explains further on her website.

Insights on the audio

She says: “We are in the digital age. There has never been more easy and efficient ways to communicate. If this is the case, why is it so hard to reach somebody?

To listen to one another? To celebrate our differences while simultaneously championing those that bring out the good in our society? Talk to a Human is my chance to dive in headfirst into all things that both inspire me and cause me to question the kindness in my own heart.”

Hendrix asks: “Can I forgive the unforgivable? Can I rise from my own battles with my medical condition and the oftentimes crippling side effects? Can I stay kind and empathetic in a political climate hell-bent on warping my sensibilities?”

She concludes: “Musically, we are unapologetically all over the map on this. Because the focus is not on the genre. It’s on what’s rooted in the heart.”

Track by track

On this album, Hendrix leads the way on acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocals. She is backed by an assortment of other artists. They include co-producer Lloyd Maines (electric, baritone, bass and acoustic guitar, dobro, pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, papoose, percussion, and ukulele), Glenn Fukunaga (bass), Pat Manske (drums, percussion, and keypads), John Silva (drums and percussion), Riley Osbourn (keyboards), Drew Womack (harmony vocals), and Jeanne Ply (fiddle).

The 11-track CD opens with the titular “Talk to a Human” which was co-written with Maines. It’s upbeat and refers to MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging). The song seems to reveal Hendrix’s desire for wanting to see mankind being more capable of being able to truly communicate in today’s electronic social-media-based culture.

The Latin influence comes in on “Mi Madre.” It’s about a perhaps all too typical mother-daughter relationship. It’s funny.  Still, it also seems there is something serious in the lyrics for listeners who can Habla Espanol at all.

“Choice” follows. This is a personal piece that tells the tuneful tale of an imperfect past but pushes the positive side of perseverance with some movin’ music. It focuses on the future rather than the past and allows us to escape from what could have otherwise been a cynical song.

The next number is a cover of the Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie folk song “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key.” It’s a song interpreted and misinterpreted by many but what matters is Hendrix makes it sound prettier than the original.

Speaking of pretty, Hendrix’s adaptation of Texan Cindy Walker’s “Don’t Meddle in My Mood.” It’s a clever little country blues bit that works well here.

While the chorus on “Dogging Me” might be by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Hendrix makes this blues-tinged track her own. Some might say is perhaps a prerequisite song for any gal with a guitar but she makes it work.

“Worthy” is another example of what Hendrix and Maines can do together. It’s an appreciative tune about friendship.

“WASP” has a wee bit of bluegrass in the mix. It’s tuneful tip of the hat to Women Airforce Service Pilots. It features Tracy Miller (harmony) and additional group vocals by Christal Moore, Tay Hoyle, Jeanne Ply, Vicki Genfan, and Patty Sughrue.

“The Dark” is a cover of a Buddy Mondlock/Guy Clark song. It originally appeared on a compilation disc named This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark. Still, don’t hold it against her as it fits here.

“The Water is Wide” is a nice adaptation of a traditional song. There are numerous versions out there but Hendrix and Maines have come up with a good one here.

The album endnote is “I Hear Your Song.” This one somehow sounds ready for a TV or motion picture soundtrack. It focuses on the search for finding or perhaps even attracting happiness and love by hearing the songs of others.

No doubt this album is due in part to Hendrix wanting her own song to be heard and remembered. Overall, the album is a welcoming mix of original songs and select meaningful covers that come complete with a few musical surprises to keep things fresh. It is an exceptional introduction for new listeners as well.

It’s also a significant albeit single part of a bigger picture Hendrix is presenting to us one piece at a time. Your rockin’ reviewer predicts her fans, both old and new, will not be disappointed. So make the smart “Choice” and check out Terri Hendrix’s Talk To A Human (Project 5.3).