Gravity

Anticipating a move, I boxed up my CD’s and have been living without them for over two months.  While I can play the music through I-Tunes, I miss the physical ritual: walking to the stacks, running my finger along the spines, placing the disc in the player.  Instead of relying on recent purchases or favorite bands, I’m more likely to play older music when the actual album is at my fingertips.  Without this access, I forget about a lot of great music.

Like “Gravity” by Terri Hendrix.  For its introspection amplified by jamming acoustic guitar, “Gravity” is one of my favorite walking songs.  Having not listened to it in months, I credit a review of Hendrix’s new album for the rediscovery.  Terri Hendrix is a Texas singer-songwriter who mixes folk with country, blues, and jazz; since 1996, she has released twelve genre-defying albums on her own label. “Gravity” appears on her 1998 release Wilory Farm, but the version I own is a live recording from Broadcasts Volume 7 (produced by Austin radio station KGSR).

A guitar strum, opening like a fan, launches the song.  After a brief pause, the guitar kicks into rhythm gear, establishing a strong beat while achieving texture with upbeat flourishes.  Then Hendrix, her voice breathy but strong, sings about a “freefall” from a mountain, a “freefall into space,” getting quickly into the chorus with the question, “Why do we crash …? / Why does a high never last …?”  She’s talking about the existential issue of life’s ups and downs.  But not satisfied with mere metaphysics, Hendrix grasps for a tangible explanation, claiming, “All you have to blame it on is gravity.”  It’s a great choice, and an unexpected one, ascribing the emotional lows in life to the physical force of gravity.

The studio version, featuring sitar and percussion, sounds smooth and perfected.  Too moderated for my taste, it lacks the raw power of the live recording on which Hendrix achieves the same texture with only her guitar.  The rhythm riff lends itself to increasing complexity, and with it the song expands, dipping and rising, swirling back on itself like an eddy.  You picture Hendrix strumming with her whole arm, thumping the wood for emphasis.  The lyrics linger in the mind, but it’s the way the music energizes the body that makes “Gravity” a force to be reckoned with.

Listen to a clip of “Gravity” from Hendrix’s 1999 Live album.

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