Tish Hinojosa explores the boundaries of popular music.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Since her 1989 debut, Homeland, Texas singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa has effortlessly mixed coffeehouse folk, twangy country-and-western and percussion-heavy Latin music. “I don’t like to stick to one style, because I get bored with things,” she says during a phone interview while traveling to a gig in San Luis Obispo.
On her last release, 2005’s A Heart Wide Open, Hinojosa continues to employ a wide range of music styles to songs that fittingly address an array of subjects. The album begins with “Never Say Never Love Again,” which is sung in English and Spanish, with heavy percussion and a reggae-ish bounce. Another love song that merges Hinojosa’s fondness for Latin music and country ballads is the steel guitar and percussion drenched “Lock and Chain.”
At other times, Hinojosa looks further outside of her self. “Whatever Happened to Everyone Wanting to Care” is a pop rock song overlaid with flutters of acoustic guitar, which examines the political and social apathy that’s taken hold since the days of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. Later on, “Blue Eyed Billy” takes a look at a battered World War II veteran who lost his youth in the bloody conflict.
One of the best songs on A Heart Wide Open is one of the most simple: “Shotgun Ridin’” is an acoustic country number about driving on a back road.
Hinojosa says she was exposed to Latin music early while growing up in San Antonio, Texas with her parents, who are Mexican immigrants. In 1979, the singer/songwriter moved to New Mexico, where she was first exposed to country music. “I didn’t like commercial country, but I liked Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris,” she says.
In 1983, Hinojosa moved to the capital of country music: Nashville, Tennessee. Though she did do studio work for country singer Mel Tillis, Hinojosa never got her big break in the notoriously competitive town. “It didn’t work out for me,” she says. “I didn’t get a record deal.”
After moving to Austin, Texas in the late ‘80s, Hinojosa started to hit her stride. Even though she consistently put out material throughout the ‘90s, the songwriter says there is a lot of work that never made it onto those albums. Some of those songs were finally released on A Heart Wide Open.
Hinojosa observes that her earliest compositions might be more relevant today than when they were first written. Numbers including “Donde Voy” and “Joaquin” are the songwriter’s attempt to put a human face on the border conflict, now one of the biggest issues in contemporary politics. “I was writing these songs in the late ‘80s,” she says. “They just hit a stronger nerve now.”
By the start of next year, Hinojosa hopes to put out a new album of Spanish-language songs. She says that the CD will be inspired by a wide range of Latin music, including artists from Chile and Argentina. Though all of the lyrics will be sung in Spanish, don’t expect the music to fit into one category. “It’s gonna be an eclectic mix of things,” Hinojosa says.
TISH HINOJOSA performs at 8:30pm Wednesday, May 23, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. $15/advance; $18/day of the show. 646-1415.