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May 3, 1995

Border Tour Rolls On

Tish HinojosaTish Hinojosa, Frontejas (Rounder Records 1995) -- Tish Hinojosa, the headliner on the recent Border Tour, has released a riveting collecting of Spanish songs in Frontejas. Featuring 12 tracks that run the gamut from waltzes to ballads to polkas, the disc highlights the beautiful and transcendent voice of Tish. If this lady doesn't become a big star, there is no justice.

Tish was raised in San Antonio (she's the youngest of 12 brothers and sisters), where her interest in authentic Mexican music was kindled. Says Tish, "I love the music of the traditional aspects of our community. Conjunto music, the ballads, and the romantic singer/songwriter songs -- the older music from Mexican that my parents liked a lot -- made a very positive impression. There's a sense of the guitar and the voice. I guess it ties in the folk element, and that really excites me."

In pursuit of her career, Tish moved first to New Mexico and then briefly to Nashville (which formed the basis for her album, Taos to Tennessee). Tish was never comfortable in Nashville; in hindsight, she notes that "Nashville requires a delicate balance. I began to see that incorporating aspects of my ethnic heritage into my music was a problem, at least at that time (the early 1980s). No one could see it as a natural part of my music."

Tish eventually returned to Texas, where she soon became a favorite in the thriving Austin music community. Now age 38, she balances a family life (her husband is an attorney, and they have two children) with her musical travels.

Tish HinojosaAnd those travels are broad. Tish is currently touring as part of the ambitious Border Tour, which provided an enchanting evening last month in Hanford. Tish acted as emcee, and spoke at length between sets; her introductions gave greater meaning to the gringos in the audience (including me).

The Border Tour features four artists: Don Walser (the yodeling Texan cowboy), whose encore, the "John Deere Song," was a perfect bit of plain-spoken Americana; Butch Hancock, a Texas-style Bob Dylan, whose set included "If You Were a Bluebird," a charming semi-acoustic number; and the great Santiago Jiminez on accordion. Santiago is a world-class player, and he wowed the crowd with his authentic Tex-Mex stylings.

The closer to the 3- hour show was Tish, who performed several selections from Frontejas. Tish is a charming performer, and is blessed with an achingly beautiful voice. Highlights included the lovely "Farolito" (a waltz that Tish originally heard broadcast from the Mexico City ballrooms), and "Las Marias," a sweet song with South American influences that Tish dedicated to all of the "Marias" who have moved to a different country in search of a better life.

By the end of the show, it was clear that Tish has a profound sense of, and respect for, her roots. You won't find an artist who is truer to her music than Tish Hinojosa. Frontejas may be a niche record, but it's a must-hear.

And here's a heartfelt thanks to Rounder Records for helping to sponsor the Border Tour. No other record company was willing to assist their artists on this show, despite the fact that some big labels (including Warner Bros.) stand to profit from it. Rounder did the right thing, and should be applauded.

Here's a review of a new favorite from my lovely bride, Gail:

Thinkin'Trisha Yearwood, Thinkin' About You (MCA 1995) -- Is the twang fading from country music? Well, fortunately it has on Thinkin' About You. Trisha has expanded into an array of tasteful pop-style songs, including "You Can Sleep While I Drive" by Melissa Etheridge, "XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)" (the theme song for a TV movie), and "I Wanna Go Too Far."

Trisha gravitates to writers whose songs have a strong personality, instead of the typical "man leaves woman for another woman" sorrow songs. Highlights on Thinkin' About You include harmony vocals from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lari White, and the powerful voice of Raul Malo, the lead singer of the Mavericks.

Ms. Yearwood is part of the new generation of women country singers, expressing independence, spontaneity and imagery. This album should definitely be part of your country CD collection.

BecVarBrian BecVar, Once in a Life (Real Music 1994) -- Pianist and composer Brian BecVar makes his new-age debut on Once in Life. Featuring 65 minutes of jazz-oriented instrumentals, the album creates a warm, gentle mood.

BecVar, who graduated from Duke University with a degree in psychology in 1976, began training in classical piano at age 8. After a stint with rocker John Mellencamp, BecVar relocated to Los Angeles and began playing with such artists as Roberta Flack, Celine Dion, and Laura Branigan.

Guest artists on Once in a Lifetime include Dave Koz on sax and "electronic wind instrument," Jimmy Haslip (of the Yellowjackets) on fretless bass, John Defaria and brother Bruce BecVar on guitar, Brad Dutz on percussion, and Ralph Rikert on flugel horn. BecVar has a unique style of instrumentation in which he filters the sound of strings and voices through a midi-grand piano to create a rich, textured sound. In addition, Once in a Lifetime has a spicy South American flair that was inspired by BecVar's extensive travels in Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, and Chile, during which he gained a deep appreciation for what he terms "the wonderful rhythmic feel of Spanish countries."

I'm generally not much of a new-age jazz fan, but there's something special about this disc. Moreover, I know several jazz fans who have embraced it wholeheartedly. If you're looking for a tasty new-age morsel, try Once in a Lifetime.

-- Randy Krbechek

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