The girl from San Marcos, Texas, has grown up. On her seventh album, The Art of Removing Wallpaper, Terri Hendrix sheds her denim overalls (a fashion staple at her concerts and in her pictures on all her previous albums) for a more glamorous look. Unlike many other artists who undergo similar makeovers, Hendrix fortunately stays grounded in the music that produced her 50,000-member mailing list.
The neatest thing about Hendrix is her genuine approach to songwriting. She has no pretense and sings in a way that means something to everyone. The Art of Removing Wallpaper finds her already strong songwriting talents continuing to mature. Such continuing education follows down the path she started with her previous album The Ring. (FAME review here). The album title comes from the time she spent peeling ugly wallpaper from her recently purchased fixer-upper. The similarity between this process and the more personal themes she was exploring in her songwriting was not lost on this woman. "I realized that 'wallpaper' is everywhere," Hendrix says, "from the news on the TV and radio to the way we all hide our true feelings from ourselves and the rest of the world on a daily basis. The more wallpaper I peeled away in my home, the more obsessed I became with stripping it away from my life, too, and writing about the truth underneath it all." The result, "The Art of Removing Wallpaper," definitely reveals a lot of truth from Hendrix.
She sings very personal songs about overcoming personal insecurities (One Night Stand), maintaining perspective in the face of obstacles (Hey Now), and understanding herself (Breakdown), but in a way that is not overly introspective as many folk singers can be. Even dealing with these very personal issues, she handles them with incredible strength. She even has the courage to tackle LL Cool J's I Need Love. The overt sensuality and emotions expressed in this song require a confident singer, and Hendrix confidently delivers. Attracted by the positive message that it sent about romance, Hendrix sings a soft rap (a la Annie Gallup) overtop a gentle acoustic guitar that builds to the chorus. Seeing this song live must result in a tremendous out-pouring of emotion from the heterosexual males in the audience.
I Need Love is not the only cover song on this album. Quiet Me is the second song written by Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle to make it on a Terri Hendrix album. (The last one was Prayer for My Friends from The Ring. Jeff and Sarah's album Barb Hollow Sessions with Quiet Me and Prayer for My Friends is reviewed here. The slow pensive mood for this song helps Hendrix focus on the beauty of life when life moves too quickly.
The middle of the album contains a trilogy of politically motivated songs---these are the most overt political statements Hendrix has made on record. The trilogy opens rather subtly with One Way, which states "One way is the only way you see things. It's your way or not at all." Hendrix explains, "I find it discouraging and heartbreaking whenever I encounter minds that are closed---be it personally or politically." Judgment Day ups the ante by taking people to task who want "to use God when they do their dirty deeds in his name." The trio closes with Monopoly, a frenetic and raucous song ending in a an old-time gospel revival with the chorus "Hey, hey FCC. Don't you turn your back on me," and encouraging her congregation "You got to rise up."
Although Hendrix has released two captivating live albums, The Art of Removing Wallpaper is the most live-sounding of her studio albums. She genuinely seems to be having fun. Credit her usual bandmates (Glenn Fukunaga, Riley Osbourn, Paul Pearcy, Adam Odor) and her long-time producer, bandmate, and business partner Lloyd Maines. They provide a strong instrumental backing to Hendrix that makes this album one of the highlights of Hendrix's already impressive career. This album is for both new and old fans. Hendrix stays true to her past with her hummable melodies and melange of bluegrass/country/folk/rock/pop music styles, but allows herself to grow deeper and explore new territory.
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