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From Brussels to Guam, Tish Hinojosa Broadens the Horizons of Country Music

By Gregory McNamee

AUGUST 18, 1997:  THOUSANDS OF MILES separate Tucson from Brussels, but Tish Hinojosa's tour schedule treats the two venues as if they were right next door. The long haul between brief visits to both places doesn't seem to faze her, though. "I like traveling, even though I do so much of it--as long as I get to go home for a day or two on the way," she says, stopping for a moment's conversation before taking the stage at a Belgian festival.

Home is Austin, Texas, where Hinojosa has been pleasing progressive-country and folk fans for years. A constant traveler, she's been steadily building a following in other places, too--including a seemingly unlikely but indisputably large fanbase in the Low Countries. ("We love your Texas music," one Dutch devotee posted to one of several unofficial Web pages devoted to Hinojosa. "Please come back.") Hinojosa does just fine in Tucson, too, drawing full houses whenever she plays here, as she manages to do every year or so.

And for good reason, KXCI disk jockey and country-music scholar Michael Hyatt remarks. "She's an absolutely wonderful entertainer," he says. "The first time I saw her, I was moved to tears by her singing. And I'm impressed by her knowledge of popular music. She has very eclectic tastes."

Hinojosa's last visits have been in support of new albums, but this time around her August 15 show at the Temple of Music and Art will be, she says, "just for fun, just to make music." The set list is likely to include several songs from her most recent album, last year's Dreaming from the Labyrinth, the Warner Brothers release that's brought Hinojosa newfound mainstream airplay. (Another Web posting comes from a fan who writes, "I was recently surprised to find Tish on a jukebox in a dive bar on Guam.") But the Tucson show will also offer something of a retrospective, drawing from Hinojosa's varied discography and, she says, favorites like "West Side of Town," from 1989's major-label debut Homeland, and later tunes like "The Vegetable Song." She'll also add covers to her originals; her recent shows and recordings have featured songs by Peter Rowan, James McMurtry, Michael Martin Murphey, Bill Staines, and even Irving Berlin.

Much of the set will include Spanish-language songs from several traditions, an ever-growing repertoire that's helped her gain a wide audience here. "We get great support from Tucson's Latino community," Hinojosa says. "Just great. That means a lot to me. The Spanish music that we play is special. It comes from the spiritual side of our culture--I don't mean religious, but, well, something even deeper." Expect to hear a mix of nueva canción, corridos, and Mexican standards, and perhaps one or two of the children's songs from her 1996 album Cada Niño.

Backing Hinojosa will be longtime colleagues Marvin Dykhuis on guitar, and Chip Dolan on keyboards. Opening the show is Lalo Guerrero, a native Tucsonan who's been playing and recording since the mid-1930s. Guerrero's music is hugely popular in Latin America--his "Canción Mexicana" has been called Mexico's unofficial national anthem; but strangely, he's something of a well-kept secret in his homeland--outside of traditional- and frontera-music circles. "I'm thrilled and honored to be appearing on the same stage with Lalo," says Hinojosa. "He's a wonderful artist."

Having recently recorded with Los Lobos and been awarded a National Medal for the Arts, Guerrero's public recognition is on the rise--and rightly so. This singular event of two top-talents is the stuff of which legendary performances are made.

Tish Hinojosa and Lalo Guerrero perform at 8 p.m. Friday, August 15, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Advance tickets are $16 and $18, available at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave.; Hear's Music, 2508 N. Campbell Ave.; and Zip's Music and Video, 7091 E. Speedway. Tickets may also be purchased by phone from PM Productions, at 881-3947. All seats are reserved. If you miss this show, have patience: Hinojosa is scheduled to appear at UA Centennial Hall on March 12, 1998.

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