Featured Artist March 2009: Tish Hinojosa

It’s been several months since I’ve had a Featured Artist here on Twirl Radio. It was starting to feel almost like a self-imposed semi-retirement from doing interviews. Kind of a rut. So what would it take to break this cycle? How about an interview with none other than the legendary singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa, the Twirl Radio Artist of the Month for March, 2009!

Tish’s music doesn’t neatly fit into any one classification. That’s why I like it so much–it crosses borders into folk, rock, Latino, and country. She’s lived and performed in many of the coolest music scenes in the country–Austin, Nashville, New Mexico, and Hamburg. Wait–what’s that last place I said? Hamburg? Oh–is that the one in Germany? Yes, that’s where Tish now resides. I’m not sure what kind of music scene Hamburg had before, but it’s a lot cooler now that Tish is there!

I’d been a fan of Tish for quite some time–really, since her 2000 release Sign Of Truth. As she told me, it was very much a crossover album, and it garnered her some new fans. It was playful, lively, and included Latino sounds, Memphis-style horns, and even an understated tribute to Monty Python. I was taken by her sweet, crystal-clear singing voice and impeccable songwriting.

She really made her mark in the highly-regarded Austin, TX music scene. Major label recording contracts, 15 albums, and many tours of North America and Europe followed. She’s worked with several of my favorite artists, including Los Lobos, Dwight Yoakam, Joan Baez, and Kris Kristofferson. And she is the only artist in the world to have appeared at both the White House AND on Twirl Radio! (Thanks for letting me put that bit of self-serving aggrandizement into this review!)

You can imagine the excitement I felt when my very own autographed copy of Our Little Planet arrived in my mailbox here at Twirl Radio. A chance to hear the latest sounds from this acclaimed artist. So what are the latest sounds from Tish Hinojosa? Well, retro! Pure, straight-up country, with a twist of folk and Tex-Mex. Tish spent part of the 1980’s in Nashville, working as a demo singer for Mel Tillis’ publishing house. She penned some songs during that phase of her career, and decided that this was the perfect time to polish them up and record them. Her lyrics are deceptively simple–she says a lot in an unusually economical manner. This leaves room for her fine vocals and the exquisite instrumentation of her longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Marvin Dykhuis.

Some standout tracks include the wistful but uptempo leadoff, What You Don’t Know, Roadsongs And Bygones, a traveling song–but thoughtfully observant about the human imprint on the landscape she’s passing through, and her duet with Rosie Flores, We Mostly Feel That Way, an ode to, well, us–average people who’ve been subject to the ups and downs of the last few years.

The bilingual title track, Our Little Planet, is the centerpiece of the album. It’s an optimistic song, and the single line “We’re doin’ the best that we can” pretty much summarizes Tish’s take on life. It’s a reason to keep going. I love the fact that the first two verses are in Spanish and the third is in English. No matter which language you speak, you can really feel the positive energy of this song. And finally, my favorite track is the love song Count Me In, an upbeat duet with the rich baritone-voiced Dale Watson. Throw in some pedal steel guitar work by Greg Leisz, and you have an instant classic. If you didn’t think you liked country music before hearing this one, you do now!

It was truly a pleasure to visit with Tish, and a thrill to receive this advance Europe-only release of Our Little Planet. If you want to get this wonderful album before the rest of your American friends have it available to them in May (U.S. release date), you can get your very own copy at Tish’s online store. In the meantime, I am pleased that Tish is the Twirl Artist of the Month for March, 2009!

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