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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Hinojosa Embraces the Cultures

September 11, 1993|STEVE HOCHMAN

Some musicians cross cultural borders, some try to erase them. Texas singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa embraces and caresses them. While it's her striking voice--darting and flitting along melodies like Emmylou Harris'--that makes the first impression, it's the way she relishes in musical and cultural meeting points that makes her stand out.

At the cozy Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica on Thursday, the petite woman and her low-key four-man band wove those borders into a North American tapestry of--among other elements--frisky Mexican string-band music, socially aware Nueva Cancion -style anthems and honky-tonk plainness, each stronger for the others' presence.

Through it all there's a personal touch, with Hinojosa's songs frequently drawing on her own family experiences, growing up as the youngest of 13 children in San Antonio. It's a seemingly effortless roots-conscious, but not self-conscious, blend.

Thursday, though, it might have been a little too easygoing. The small crowd included a number of people who were there to dance and had already been pumped up by an energetic opening set of Tex-Mex honky-tonk rockers by Chris Gaffney and his band, the Cold Hard Facts, possibly the best band of its kind currently working the L.A. circuit.

Hinojosa's set, while including a few danceable polkas, two-steps and waltzes, was more a time to listen. At first many in the club were clearly not in the mood for that, chatting away as Hinojosa sang. But ultimately the strength of her songs and singing won them over into rapt attention.

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