With the demise of free form radio three decades ago, NPR remains one of the few lifelines to hearing new, interesting and diverse musical artists. So it was one day in the early eighties when my wife was driving and heard a voice that grabbed her and made her want to hear more. It was a young woman out of Texas by the name of Tish Hinojosa who possessed a clear voice, bilingual sensibilities and abilities and a fine melodic sense. On a trip to Dallas later that year, she went on a venture to find some of Tish's recordings owing to the difficulty at that time of finding them in our home territory. Frankly, the studio recordings just never grabbed me. I didn't get it...until I heard her live. Live I could hear that vibrancy, see the personality behind the songs, view her power on stage as a leader and artist. I was hooked. The good news for those of you reading this piece is that now you too can get exposed to this talent via her new live release which also doubles as a greatest hits collection, The Best of Tish Hinojosa Live.
Gathering the best of Austin musicians, as she has throughout her career, including musical director, Marvin Dykhuis, and accordion master, Santiago Jimenez, Jr. (Flaco's brother), she has taken the best of her fourteen previous albums and reinterpreted them with great energy on this 17 selection disc. You will find yourself wanting to dance from the first with Riendo El Rio Corre, to the last with Cumbia Polka, two of several bilingual tunes. Tish was world music before the label was there. And yet, she is that most American of singer-songwriters documenting experiences not often heard, such as that of her parent's immigration experience in West Side of Town and Something In The Rain. Both illustrate her ability to tell a story supported by a great melody-in the great Texas tradition of Clark, Van Zandt and Earle. She is that good. She nicely covers life in the southwest as in Taos to Tennessee and Life In The Real West. She has her anthems, too, that will be immediately melodically memorable in Bandera Del Sol and Donde Voy (a big hit in Japan-real world music). Long-time listeners will get to hear two new songs, She's A Highway and Otra Vez, the latter of which is one of her most beautiful compositions with wonderful accompaniment by Jimenez. The range of styles that Tish makes her own on this recording is rather surprising-salsa, Tex-Mex polka, Bob Wills's swing, mariachi, storytelling singer-songwriter. In other hands, this could seem flighty. In Tish's, the melody, words and arrangements work hand in hand...not an easy feat to pull off.
The recording is crisp with just enough in the way of introductions and audience flavor to give you the sense of being there... and what it might be like to see her live in the future. In the great tradition of guitar slinger sidekicks, Marvin Dykhuis deserves recognition. This guy adds to every song in a non-ostentatious way-he's there in every tune, but you will need to listen to how he supports the tunes. One might quibble with the many tunes that have been left off this disc. With fourteen albums under her belt, some tough choices had to be made. Overall though, this should be a real pleasure for old and new fans alike.
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