Terri Hendrix's Music
Finds Its Own Acre of Land

By Terry Roland

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In folk music, blues, bluegrass, and Zen, there has been a long standing tradition of the teacher-student relationship. Imagine, if you will, ancient Zen students and masters playing mandolins and fiddles rather than discussing Koans and ringing bells. Or how about mystic hermits, living in caves for decades, studying the Travis pick and writing songs for high-lonesome singers. In those diamond-rare moments of folk music history picture Bob Dylan sitting in a living room with Woody Guthrie who is advising Bob on his songwriting. You could start about anywhere in music and spiritual history to find these puzzling but lasting relationships. Musicians, craftsmen, philosophers, and artists maintained these relationships, sometimes called mentoring, for centuries. The last century has shown a long lineage of these relationships: Son House to Robert Johnson, the mysterious Tee Tot who taught Hank Williams his blues, Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan.

So, when young singer-songwriter, Terri Hendrix sought her muse, she began the road to her mentor, Marion Williamson. At the reader's first glance, because of the best-selling New Age writer of the same name, one may ask, what does she have to do with folk music? Indeed, Marion Williamson, in Texas Hill Country music, located near San Marcos, was known for her edgy blues playing and picking as well as her philanthropic support of independent music. Hendrix's story sounds like something out of The Karate Kid. She finds herself on Williamson's farm, caring for goats and doing bookkeeping. In exchange, Hendrix found her most important mentor with whom she learned her distinctive musical skills in songwriting, guitar playing, and harmonica playing. Hendrix also received those Koan-like lessons only the best Zen masters can offer. As much a part of her musical instruction and daily goat tending practice, Williamson instilled in her the character to thrive in a competitive world of watered-down art and money-driven music promotions.

It's been nearly 12 years since Marion Williamson passed away. Since that time Terri Hendrix has been busy making the kind of music she learned during those goat-milking days. She has also put into practice those important life lessons learned as well. Starting from scratch at open mic nights, where she first met Marion Williamson, to DAT demos, regular local tours in her beat-up Toyota pickup carrying her own PA, being her own underpaid roadie, building a fan base through her website and, finally, after multiple record label rejections, she formed her own Wilory Farms Records and released a string of critically and commercially successful independent albums.

Along with winning a songwriting Grammy for co-writing the Dixie Chicks' Ol' Jack Slade, Hendrix has continued to build her reputation as a consummate songwriter, instrumentalist, and performer, playing guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. Her fan base extends from coast to coast in America and has begun to spread to Europe.

Not bad for the 31-year-old singer-songwriter who was told by a record executive when she was 20 she had a mere five years to "make it" in the music business. She was told she could never have national, let alone international, success without record label support and a national distribution deal. But she didn't have an ear for anyone who told her she would be anything less than successful. It seems for this gifted 20-year-old songwriter, she would have to pave a new road for success, not only the one less traveled but perhaps the one never traveled. Who knew that goat milking would lead to a successful mentoring friendship with Marion Williamson, talent development a thousand light years from any music executive's pretentious and stuffy office and from the arrogance of a music industry that could use far more than a decade learning to milk mules rather than goats. But, this is what she did.

With nine solo independently released albums, nationally and internationally successful, including one platinum selling album, Hendrix points to her audience, whom she regards as friends, to her success. The sales from each album provided the necessary funding to pay for the next release.

Hendrix's latest effort Spiritual Kind brings home the values learned from Marion Williamson. It opens with the Celtic influenced Life's a Song, which brings us a much needed positive message for today's woes.

Life's song that keeps on singin'

Life's a song that never ends

We pass it on to our sons and daughters

Then it starts all over again.

On the title song The Spiritual Kind, Hendrix seems to answer Iris Dement's agnostic gospel song, Let the Mystery Be, with an unabashed, wry, and humor-filled homage to modern emergent faith in all of its variety of forms:

I'm a little bit Catholic and little bit Jew

I'm a little bit Baptist and Episcopal too.

One line neatly summarizes the current outlook on spirituality among the sometimes contradictory lifestyles we live, while trying to find comfort provided in world religions:

My friend Kathy is a spiritual kind

She jumps in her jacuzzi to clear her mind

She keeps a statue of Buddha by her hot tub

When her soul gets cold she gives his belly a rub.

Perhaps the strongest song on Spiritual Kind is her tribute to her mentor, Marion, called Acres of Land. Returning to her teacher, she sees in her the music and the life that always returns her to the earth, even as it keeps emerging from the same source: it's the place of the garden, of daily ordinary living, the wisdom of the cultural elder and the teacher who taught her to stand and be strong in a world that would just as soon ignore an artist who would dare choose her own path and actually find success outside of the mainstream music world of mediocrity and compromise.

Terri Hendrix will be appearing at Russ and Julie's House Concerts on Friday, January 30, 2009 at 8:00pm. For more information go to www.houseconcerts.us