Legendary Texas singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa played an intimate performance on Sunday evening at Jammin Java in the DC suburbs, enchanting a passionate crowd of dedicated friends. Touring behind her first album in five years, West, Tish played some new material, but she also delighted the crowd by not just playing her old standards, but by taking all audience requests. [For our review on West, click any of these bolded words right here.]
Tish played a split show in two sets. She started out with some older songs to get herself going, leading up to singing the title track of the new album. She told the audience that “West” was inspired as she drove through Arizona on her way from Texas to visit friends in California, with a thunderstorm at her back. She’d had a fallow period of songwriting and, as happens, it ushered in a period of heightened creativity during which she quickly wrote several songs.
In her second set, Tish played additional songs from the new album. One, entitled “I Can Be The One Wind,” was co-written with her son Adam. I consider the other, “My Good Guitar,” the highlight of the record. The song tells the story Tish repairing a treasured handmade guitar. It is a love story between a musician and a guitar, as well as song about resilience and the possibilities of overcoming trauma to produce beauty. Having come through a number of my own health problems, I related to and was deeply affected by Tish’s songwriting here.
Tish’s releases – seventeen in total – stretch back to the late ’80s, and include recordings in English, Spanish, and a mix of both. In taking all requests from the audience, Tish was opening the door to a lot of material, and she couldn’t possibly be prepared to play all of it. Presumably, she (and any artist who takes requests) prepares the songs that get requested regularly, but something can always come out of left field. Many artists don’t want to take requests because they don’t want to be caught unprepared. They’re afraid, quite reasonably, they’ll make a mistake playing a song they haven’t prepared.
On Sunday, most of the requests came from Tish’s 1992 album, Culture Swing, which won NAIRD Indie Folk Album of the Year. Tish acknowledged it was her biggest album, and she was not surprised to get a number of requests from it. A few requests, however, did catch her a bit by surprise: someone asked for “Midnight Moonlight,” from her first album, Taos to Tennessee, and another audience member wanted “Quíen,” from her children’s album, Cada Nino. (The requesting party was, in fact, an adult. And there’s nothing wrong with that!)
Tish deserves a ton of credit for having the courage to give her all at songs she hadn’t prepared. I’ve seen artists crash and burn on material they have prepared. Tish came out on Sunday and really delivered for her audience, and audience will appreciate an artists who gives them a special experience more than a perfect, sterile one. For more information on Hinojosa’s upcoming events, check here.