As radio programmers and reviewers continue to pick up on Love You Strong, Terri Hendrix’s first new album in five years, she’s already preparing to unveil a second salvo: The Slaughterhouse Sessions, a harmonica-driven blues-gospel album recorded in a renovated slaughterhouse. Releasing July 8, it’s one of four albums — plus a book — the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist will deliver this year in an unprecedented endeavor titled Project 5. Like every album she’s made in her 20-year career, these entries are on her own Wilory Records label through he own e-commerce store.
Although each Project 5 component is distinct, they’re thematically linked by their relationship to the concepts of love, hope and resilience. On Love You Strong, Hendrix puts love under a microscope, carefully examining issues of trust, loyalty, friendship and fortitude — both emotional and spiritual — with unflinching honesty.
“I left my comfort zone to tell the stories I wanted to tell,” she says of the Lloyd Maines-produced album, her long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s Cry Till You Laugh. That risk paid off; Love You Strong is earning Hendrix some rave reviews.
Radio stations nationwide have latched onto several tracks, including “Feel the Time,” “Northern Lights,” and “Love You Strong.”
The former surges with conviction over an urgent Celtic groove, though its inspirational “move with a mission” message is tempered with a bittersweet reminder of mortality. Life’s final chapter is also addressed in “Love You Strong.” Inspired by her father’s role as her mother’s caregiver, it honors his selfless devotion as a true testament to what upholding the vow, “in sickness and in health” really means. She visits the subject again in “Earth-Kind Rose,” but even so, Hendrix accurately notes the album’s overall tone is not one of sadness.
In “The Texas Star,” the San Marcos resident honors the defiant dignity shared by four “women united in justice and freedom/blazing across the lone star sky”: Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins and Liz Carpenter, all beacons of strength who stood in opposition to the status quo. She’s joined on harmonies by another lone star luminary: Eliza Gilkyson.
The glow igniting Hendrix’s bluesy “Northern Lights,” on the other hand, comes from within, as she ignites an exhilarating, seize-the-moment fire of self-determination.
Yet Hendrix also refuses to shy away from tougher topics, such as the brutally stark confession of self-doubt and raw nerves she makes in “Vulnerable,” an unfiltered portrait of a woman taking a long, hard look at herself, her relationships, and the world she lives in. Just like life itself, what she sees is not always pretty.
There’s also an element of tension underscoring the deceptively peppy “The Rant” that’s as palpable as the unfathomable loss haunting “Calle De Los Niños,” in which a family buries a child felled by violence.
But ultimately, Love You Strong is not about defeat; it’s about courage, adaptability and working through adversity — and the beauty of not only finding inner strength, but sharing it.
Gorgeously nuanced and at times sweetly delicate, Love You Strong is the most straightforward “folk” album that the famously eclectic Hendrix has ever made. Incorporating jazz, pop, country and blues, it’s also one of her most sonically beautiful efforts. In addition to vocals, Hendrix plays guitars, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, papoose and harmonica and Maines plays guitars, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, banjo and papoose. They’re backed by Glenn Fukunaga on bass; Pat Manske and John Silva on drums and percussion; Riley Osbourn on keyboards; Dennis Ludiker on fiddle; Bukka Allen on accordion; and Drew Womack on harmonies.
Following Slaughterhouse Sessions, Hendrix will release Who Is Ann?, an electronica exploration. The final album, Talk to a Human, will connect the dots among all four while examining our own connections in a social media-driven world. The book, her second, will delve into her lifelong battle with epilepsy and the path she traveled to wellness.
Regarding why she took on a challenge of this magnitude, Hendrix explains, “As I became ever more conscious of just how many common threads there were, connecting songs to songs and songs to book chapters and vice-versa, the more I realized that everything I was working on was a piece of a single body of work. Seeing that ‘big picture’ these past five years allowed me the freedom to explore different aspects of my writing and music in more depth than I ever have before on a single record. I’ve always been a long-distance runner at heart, and like to think of Project 5 as a marathon; each leg is its own separate journey, but they all lead to the same destination.”
She may be a runner at heart, but she certainly doesn’t follow the beaten path. She’s never signed to a label, never had a distribution deal and never allowed interlopers to compromise her musical instincts. An early adopter of e-commerce, Hendrix has funded 16 albums completely through online pre-orders — a testament to the strong relationship she’s nurtured with her loyal fans over two decades (and multiple generations). Their support has not only allowed her to follow her heart artistically, but to pursue an even bigger dream: launching a nonprofit creative arts center serving San Marcos and beyond. It’s called OYOU, an acronym for “Own Your Own Universe” — words that embody not only the free-spirited Hendrix’s career, but her life.