Steeped in tradition and Southern soul, Terry Garland's rough-and-tumble slide-guitar attack is often tagged as pure Delta blues. But Garland says he adds claw-hammer slap bass and rock 'n' roll fingerpicking into the National steel mix that makes his playing resonate with a personal viewpoint. "It's really a hybrid. As far as a style, it's just my own," the 47-year-old Tennessee native offers with a matter-of-fact shrug. But call it what you will, Garland's music is getting a little extra push these days with the rerelease of two excellent recordings, "Trouble in Mind" and "The One to Blame" on Planetary Records. He also has plans for a new CD of original material and a two-week February run of shows in France, Belgium and Holland. Having been down this road before with mixed success in the '90s, Garland is cautious about expectations, but he's pleased things are pointed in the right direction personally and professionally these days. He's glad to get more chances to find a wider audience, even though he's the first to admit that audience won't land him at the top of the charts. "I'm a niche type of person. ..." Garland says. "And it's a very small niche." Regardless of finding a niche or hitting the top of the pops, Garland has doggedly pursued his musical path since he left Tennessee in the early '70s to travel the Southeast with a top-40 rock band. Playing everything from Brook Benton to Deep Purple, Garland learned his licks and learned life on the road. It was a long way from the Elvis and Carl Perkins sounds he loved as a kid, but it beat working a union job. Garland was hooked. Moving to Richmond in 1978, he joined a fledgling band named the Offenders and found new musical life touring the East for more than three years playing original rock 'n' roll. The band came close to a major label deal but not close enough. "They were telling us the music was too raw. ... That pretty much dashed my hopes of making it in the pop world." The Offenders broke up, and Garland decided on a solo acoustic blues approach in 1988. He had no particular plan, but old friend Bruce Olsen from the Offenders persuaded him to demo his hard-driving music. The tape eventually landed him a recording deal, and to Terry's delight, this led to high-profile, national CD distribution. By 1991, Garland was playing respected blues venues and festivals in the United States and abroad. More records followed, but labels folded, and Garland once again found himself on the outside looking in. Despite disappointment, Garland kept playing through the '90s, booking himself where he could, occasionally returning to Europe or playing Japan. Late '90s health problems and musical frustrations took a toll. But as 2001 unfolds, Garland is rolling, looking to reach new audiences. If the music can torment the soul, the sweet sound of slide on steel satisfies as well. "I'm just gonna go along, plod along doing my thing," Garland says with a smile. "I'm good to
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