TERRE HAUTE — Same place. Different time. Same heart. New outlook.
Guitar in hand, Cari Ray stood singing beneath the soft lights of a coffeehouse on Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute last month. More than a decade earlier, she was a nervous college senior, playing her first public gig at the same venue — Coffee Grounds. In both moments, Ray was fulfilling her passion — music.
Back in the mid-1990s, though, she guarded that love. Ray considered majoring in music at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, and participated in vocal and theatrical groups at the school. It came naturally. She’s been singing since her first church solo as a 3-year-old growing up in Rockville. But instead of pursuing a music major, she earned a degree in graphic design and marketing, because “I just never wanted [music] to be like work.”
The kid gloves are off now.
Ray, an Indianapolis marketing consultant by day, is working hard at being a singer-songwriter-recording artist by night. Two and a half years ago, she started performing and writing again, for the first time since her 20s. A year ago, Ray made a plan to eventually earn a living in music.
“I just love it,” she said. “I really do feel like it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
This weekend marks a significant step toward that destiny. A CD release party for her new album, “Always On,” was scheduled for Saturday night in Basile Auditorium at the Indianapolis Art Center. Ray wrote every track, and one of the catchiest — “Wrestling With My Angel” — got favorable reviews from listeners on WLHK-FM 97.1 (better known as Hank FM) in Indianapolis. She’s assembled a band for a tour of Indiana and the region this fall.
“The clouds have opened,” Ray said of her second career.
She played in bright, cool October sunshine on the courthouse lawn in Rockville last Sunday. The town square overflowed with visitors to the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival that afternoon. Hometown family and friends recognized Ray, who now lives in Fishers. Many more enjoyed the sound of her pitch-perfect, Gibraltar-solid, alto-soprano voice and guitar work. Some may have heard her sing as a young girl, but Ray’s polished performance impressed the crowd. She sold several “Always On” CDs that day.
“She has more there than a hobby. She has a talent,” said Cathy Harkrider, executive secretary of Parke County Inc., and the mother-in-law of Ray’s sister. “And when people hear her, they want to hear more.”
Ray hears similar comments from people who’ve heard her live, or can’t quit playing her album on their car CD player. What they’re hearing is a mix of country songwriting, with an alt-country or pop Americana feel. The genre-crossing doesn’t worry Ray as much as it does some inside music circles. “It will land where it lands,” she said of the album.
Ernie Mills, a radio personality at Hank FM in Indy, called “Always On” a “big winner” at that country station. Still, the disc notably lacks some staples of country recordings; there are no fiddles or steel guitars. But listeners will hear mandolin, dobro, ukulele and upright bass mixed with electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, electric bass and drums.
Ray jokes that she “stole” popular Indianapolis singer Jennie Devoe’s rhythm section for the album. It was produced by Greg McGuirk, Devoe’s keyboardist and music director at Bennett Innovations, an Indianapolis firm that typically creates jingles and commercials for corporate clients. Ray asked McGuirk to produce her debut disc. Instead of taking it on as a side project, McGuirk got permission at Bennett Innovations to craft the album in its studios — a rare project for the company.
She quickly impressed the veteran producer and songwriter.
“As I got working with her, I just fell in love with her music,” McGuirk said. “She’s just a wonderful singer and songwriter, and just a fun person to be around.”
Ray had the same effect on the studio musicians. “Each one of them, their eyes just lit up as we got into the teeth of this project,” McGuirk said.
The material held their attention. “She’s a great storyteller,” he said.
Those stories are what drew Ray back into music, feet first this time. “I had these stories that are pretty human stories, and the feedback I got from people … it’s like it made a connection with me.”
The tales, told simply, include a Hoosier feel. On “Red Line,” Ray opens with the line, “Grew up in Indiana, my daddy raised me right; church on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night.” It ends with the pathos of a jilted, broken-hearted lover leaving town. Along similar lines, the album includes one song written during Ray’s St. Mary-of-the-Woods days, “Greyhound,” in which she departs by bus after coming home to a note instead of her boyfriend.
Back then, Ray enjoyed singing and performing in The Woods’ theatrical groups. But she didn’t learn guitar until her senior year. That year, a popular Indiana band heard Ray playing a handful of freshly written songs at a campus homecoming event. The band invited her to open for them at, of course, Coffee Grounds. So she learned three cover songs to go with her three originals, “and got up there with my knees knocking.”
She developed an affection for that eclectic coffeehouse. Ray even put her design skills to use by creating the Coffee Grounds’ first logo for its original owner, George Shumay. A little more than a decade later, she contacted new proprietor Pete Wilson and booked a return performance during, fittingly, The Woods’ homecoming weekend. This time, she was calmer and more focused.
More of her music-making lies ahead, according to her plan.
“I think she’s going to have lots of songs coming out for a long time,” McGuirk predicted.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
Finding Cari Ray
Information about Parke County native Cari Ray and her new album, “Always On,” can be found online in various locations:
Reverb Nation: www.reverb
Upcoming gigs: Friday, 8 Seconds, Indianapolis, 6 p.m.; Oct. 31, Bertees, Fortville, 8 p.m.; Nov. 5, Mo’s Irish Pub, Noblesville, 9:30 p.m.; Nov. 14, Wagon Wheel Theatre, Warsaw, 8 p.m.
TERRE HAUTE — Same place. Different time. Same heart. New outlook.
3 virtues 4-H has taught these youths
Perseverance, integrity, honesty, responsibility and service are the hallmarks of any successful business.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: A Wood’s student’s quest to save thousands of turtles
If you don’t like something, sometimes it’s a matter of taking it into your own hands to change it. For Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College student, Amber Slaughterbeck, that mentality couldn’t be any more true.
TRIED 'N' TRUE: Fix this Oven Fried Chicken ahead of time
When my brother Gary’s wife got breast cancer, he needed something he could fix ahead of time to throw into the oven when it was time to fix supper after Kathy’s treatments.
Fit for a King: Couple opens Clayshire Castle as bed and breakfast in rural Bowling Green
There aren’t too many castles around the Wabash Valley, but now there is one worth checking out. Sit back and relax, and let me tell you the story of the Clayshire Castle and Lord Douglas and Lady Josephine. It’s a modern day fairy tale complete with, yes, a castle.
Steps to the River: Watermark Landing project brings artistic recognition to Valley’s most prominent waterway
Petra Nyendick recalls that when she moved to Terre Haute in 2005 in hopes of opening an art gallery, one of her initial surprises was usage of the Wabash River by people in the city was so light.
Bond of Brothers: Performance to reveal complex kinship between Dreiser and ‘My Brother Paul’
Two famed writers linger in Tedi Dreiser Godard’s family tree.
Longtime weatherman Jesse Walker relates well to people of Wabash Valley
While in middle and high school, Jesse Walker developed a strong interest in the weather. He thought about a career at the National Weather Service or at a storm prediction center, but the idea of becoming a television meteorologist never entered his mind.
CULINARY COURSES: Clabber Girl Classroom Kitchen provides variety of cooking courses for the Valley
There are a few taste-bud-tantalizing-perks for having America’s leading baking powder producer in your backyard. For nearly 120 years, Clabber Girl has been a staple in Terre Haute. In 1899, Hulman and Company began offering up what was to become one of the oldest brands in the country, Clabber baking powder. In 1923, the company changed the baking powder brand name to Clabber Girl.
RIVER OF SOUND: Composer sees symphony bring his musical imagination to life
David Watkins smiled as he stood on the Tilson Auditorium stage. The audience stood, too, applauding.
Two of his compositions had just been performed by the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra. Neither piece — “A Wabash Portrait” and “River Fanfare” — had been played publicly in decades.
The Beauties of Spring: Stunning array of wildflowers bloom each spring in Collett Park
Groundskeepers put off the first mowing of Collett Park each spring.
Admirers of the place, Terre Haute’s oldest park, like it that way.
A stunning array of wildflowers covers the 21-acre lawn for a few short weeks. Those plants, known as “spring beauties,” emerge in March, bloom in April and go dormant by May, when the brilliant waves of white and pink flowers disappear.
Day spent with daughter inspires Valley man to write children’s book for her
It started with a warm sunny blackberry picking outing, a bee buzzing, a little bird nest with eggs in it and a little girl begging her daddy for a night-time story. And from those ingredients the children’s book, “The Bee in the Blackberry Bush” came to fruition.
From kilts to haggis, Wabash Valley Scottish Society marks a decade of preserving heritage
As soon as Richard Cooper breaks into his Scottish accent, a smile automatically follows.
It happened last week as he recited a work of legendary Scotland poet Robert Burns.
Witness to history: April movie chronicles Jackie Robinson’s trials as be breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier — something Vigo County native Harry Taylor witnessed first hand
The upcoming movie “42” aims to show America what Jackie Robinson endured.
Harry Taylor witnessed it firsthand.
Robinson wore jersey No. 42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Taylor wore 41. Both were 28-year-old rookies, considerably older than most. Taylor got delayed by military service in World War II. Professional baseball’s unwritten but ironclad code of racial discrimination had kept Robinson and other African-Americans out of the majors since the 1880s.
Sisterly Habits: Fillenwarth sisters are linked together in more than one sense
The Fillenwarth sisters are sisters in more than one sense of the word.
Both were born two of the eight children of city cop Henry and his wife Catherine Fillenwarth. Both grew up among a large and giving Catholic extended family in inner-city Indianapolis in the 1940s.
Geocaching Indiana: Clay County man develops idea to use geo-art to create outline of state in caches
Indiana, long-known as the Crossroads of America, has for years been a destination for people coming from around the world to witness such activities as the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Indianapolis Colts football games and Indiana University Hoosiers basketball games.
Since October 2012, Indiana’s attractions have come to include the surprising geo-art creation of a group of Wabash Valley geocachers — people who use Global Positioning Systems and similar location-sensitive devices to find hidden objects for fun.
Voice of a Storyteller: Chance meeting of Twain, Paris youngster inspired narrative voice of Huck Finn
The block offers no hints of its place in American literary history.
Customers dodge raindrops, walking in and out of an auto parts store.
Pearls of the Wabash: Efforts to reintroduce mussels
Broken bricks, shattered large clay tiles and thin strips of lumber nailed into a crimped piece of sheet metal, sit piled down a county road in Hillsdale.
Natural Habitat: Meet 17-year-old Ben Cvengros, who has a knack for capturing wildlife — in particular, birds — on his camera
I would like to introduce you to a 17-year-old Parke County teenager who has an incredible level of patience. Ben Cvengros was 12 years old when he found his passion for photography.
WORD PLAY: Scrabble Club broadens Greene County youngsters’ vocabularies and experiences in a fun way
Drew Helton nodded his head like a wise college professor dispensing scholarly advice.
Doing a lot with a little: Family’s resourcefulness leads it to reuse vegetable oil as fuel
Up a winding driveway, tucked off a main road in Clay County, sits an average-looking house in a hardwood forest. The homeowners, Chris and Lori Hart, are two resourceful people.
Crossroads Rep opens with ‘You Can’t Take It With You’
‘Pirates’ to invade Terre Haute Children’s Museum on Saturday
The Terre Haute Community Band will perform “A Pirate Adventure: The Treasure of Music!” at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
Learn about ‘The Wabash in Legend and Lore’ at Symphony fundraiser
Hear Vigo County historian Mike McCormick speak on “The Wabash in Legend and Lore” during the Terre Haute Symphony League’s fundraiser at noon Wednesday in the Country Club of Terre Haute. Reservations are due Friday.
GRAPE SENSE: Some think Chardonnay is next big thing in northwest wine
Does the wine world need another great Chardonnay region? California has the great big buttery, woodsy Chards while Chablis brings the mineral and acid. There is virtually every style in between from regions across the globe.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: A Bar-B-Que recipe from my brother, Mark
My brother Mark lives in California. He does a lot of cooking. Both of my brothers are great cooks. (I’m the oldest of all my siblings.) Mark gave me the Bar-B-Que recipe.
Concert to honor Indiana composers, arrangers
The Terre Haute Community Band kicks off its summer season with Indiana’s official state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” written by Terre Haute’s own Paul Dresser.
Water show kicks off Vigo library program
The Vigo County Public Library will stage its kickoff event for the summer reading program “Dig into Reading” with a water show from 3 to 4 p.m. on Monday on Walnut Street in downtown Terre Haute.
BRUCE’S HISTORY LESSONS: This week in 1944: D-Day and the Airborne assault on Normandy
This week (June 5) in 1944, with the D-Day invasion of the Nazi-occupied Normandy coast set to begin, the man in charge of that invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, paid a special visit to members of the U.S. 82nd and the 101st Airborne.
All Valley artists encouraged to submit art at Vigo County Fair
Artists from throughout the Wabash Valley are encouraged to submit works to the 84th Vigo County Fair, which will take place July 7-15 at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Recycling initiative in full swing at Vigo County Public Library
The Vigo County Public Library has recycled the weight of two compact cars (7,000 pounds) since April, this after an employees’ initiative to recycle library-wide.
- More Features Headlines
- 3 virtues 4-H has taught these youths