Guitar zone: Terri Allard and her evolving band

Terri Allard would probably admit to being a folk musician, but beyond that, she's not one to be pigeonholed. Just when you think you've got her figured out, she rustles up a battalion of eight musicians and plays an electric set at Fridays After 5. This is a rare occurrence, though, since her act can usually be assembled much more easily. As a matter of fact, all she really needs is a guitar.

"On the folk circuit, it's generally much more of a troubadour thing," she says.

That doesn't mean that there isn't room for a few friends every once in a while, though, and Allard is constantly mixing and matching her favorite supporting musicians, trying to find new and exciting combinations.

For example, she often brings in harmonica player Gary Green for duo performances, while the trio lineup might involve bassist Sonny Layne or multi-instrumentalists Jim Taggert and Jeff Saine. You might also someday catch her with her full complement of nine after she calls everyone in her Rolodex– if you're really lucky.

"Let's face it, on the road, they'd starve! I mean, it's the folk circuit," she sighs.

Allard is quick to sing the praises of her bandmates, and they respond in kind, even if they don't get to share the stage with her nearly as much as they'd like.

"I just thought she was tremendous," says drummer Eddie Hall of his first encounter, when he prodded her into an impromptu demo of her six-string and vocal cords in the midst of an Orange County social engagement.

Taggert finds that Allard is as rewarding as a co-collaborator as she is impressive. "She does so much original material," says Taggert. "It gives me carte blanche to either come up with a new riff or blend a traditional bluegrass riff into it."

Allard's in demand these days– doing everything from teaching at a Pennsylvania retreat for singer-songwriters to scoring a gig in Staunton alongside John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin. Even when she's at home, she's often working on new material or soaking up the local flavor.

"It's a real treat to live here and be able to go out and hear all these great musicians," she says, naming Jan Smith and Nickeltown among her favorites. "There are a lot of great musicians... and great poets, too," she adds, throwing in a poetic pause of her own for good measure.

Disaster strikes when the fury of a screaming toddler erupts in the background, and Allard finishes the interview hiding under a blanket with her three-year-old, who likes to play this game when Daddy comes home from work. "This is my world," she laughs.

Chances are Daddy finds them. She's hard to miss.

Age: 42

Why here? I moved to the area when I was 8.

Worst thing about living here? Can't think of a thing.

Favorite hangout? Page's Store

Most overrated virtue? Is housekeeping considered a virtue?

People would be surprised to know? I can keep a secret.

What would you change about yourself? My attention span

Proudest accomplishment? I still hold the two-mile track record at Orange County High School– I think.

People find most annoying about you? I'm a chatty optimist.

Whom do you admire? People who take chances

Favorite book? Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Subject that causes you to rant? Bigotry

Biggest 21st century thrill? Progress in medicine

Biggest 21st century creep-out? Global warming

What do you drive? Honda Civic

In your car CD player right now? I rotate Mary Chapin Carpenter's Between Here and Gone and Patty Griffin's Impossible Dream

 Next journey? Becoming a better songwriter

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? My twenties in general

Regret? Not finishing college (yet)

Favorite comfort food? Dr. Ho's Pizza

Always in your refrigerator? Milk, eggs, juice, bread, and beer

Must-see TV? Six Feet Under

Favorite cartoon? I never liked cartoons much. "The Roadrunner" really got on my nerves.

Describe a perfect day. Walking in our woods with my husband and son

Walter Mitty fantasy? Being Coran Capshaw

Who'd play you in the movie? Holly Hunter

Most embarrassing moment? Too many to come up with just one...

Best advice you ever got? Take voice lessons

Favorite bumper sticker? Drive 25 in Batesville

Terri Allard