Ten years ago Island musician Kate Taylor attended a concert at the Old Whaling Church that literally brought her to tears. Tish Hinojosa, a Texas native, was the performer. “Something in the Rain,” a touching ballad about a little boy and his migrant farm worker family, was the song. Ms. Taylor recalls, “My face was completely covered with tears. It just moved me so much.”
Ms. Taylor was impressed, not only with the emotional punch of Ms. Hinojosa’s bittersweet material, but with her remarkable voice and the range of styles that her fellow singer/songwriter covered. “She touches so many different genres,” she says. “There’s a lot of music that’s really upbeat — that makes you move. She has that kind of Tex-Mex and country with a lot of rhythm and fun lyrics.”
The two women struck up a lasting friendship and when Ms. Hinojosa visited the Island in September, Ms. Taylor encouraged her to come back for a return concert.
This Saturday, the Vineyard Playhouse will host two shows featuring the acclaimed Texas-born singer and her accompanist, guitarist Marvin Dykhuis. Ms. Taylor will join her old friend for a few numbers. The concerts will feature music from Ms. Hinojosa’s Christmas album “From Texas for a Christmas Night” as well as many of her hit songs. The Vineyard will be the last stop on Ms. Hinojosa’s nationwide tour.
Ms. Hinojosa’s music is impossible to pigeonhole. Her influences include the traditional Mexican music played in her childhood home, ’60s and ’70s pop that she grew up adoring, the Tex-Mex of her home state, and the heartfelt country music that she embraced after moving to New Mexico as a young woman.
Writing in both Spanish and English, Ms. Hinojosa has melded these influences into her own unique blend that touches chords of familiarity, while truly expressing her individual journey through life on a musical and personal level.
The singer/songwriter notes, “I’m on the fringes of everything, which is why I haven’t become a household word. I’m still mainly an NPR [National Public Radio] artist.” She adds, “I’m not played on Latino stations or mainstream country stations. That’s really not my style. I’m more like Lyle Lovett. More low-key than that. I wouldn’t want to be a mainstream country artist or a mainstream Latino artist. I wouldn’t want to be a Shakira.”
Ms. Hinojosa is the youngest of 13 children. She is a second generation Mexican-American who grew up bilingual in San Antonio, Texas. Although she spent some time pursuing her career in Nashville, Ms. Hinojosa finally achieved success on her return to Texas. While living and performing in Austin she was signed by A&M records.
“It took me 10 years to get a record deal,” she says. Making up for lost time, Ms. Hinojosa has since released 15 records with three different record labels. In the ’90s she participated in a huge celebration of Texas music in Washington D.C. In 1997 she played at the White House for the Clintons and was invited back for a dinner a year later. She notes, “I was seated at Hillary Clinton’s table with Robert Redford and other celebrities.”
The cantautora, (“sounds more romantic than singer/songwriter,” she notes) played at a number of fundraisers for Ms. Clinton’s campaign. “Al Gore became a fan of mine,” she adds. Ms. Hinojosa has also been involved in a variety of causes — bilingual education, immigration, and farm workers’ rights.
The musician/activist has a large following, primarily in the southwest, and, although she now lives in Germany with her journalist husband, she still maintains an apartment in Austin and visits her children there periodically. She has done many tours of the U.S. and Europe in her long career and continues touring regularly in this country.
Linda Ronstadt, an American singer and record producer with 10 Grammy Awards under her belt, has recorded her own version of one of Ms. Hinojosa’s Spanish language songs, and Ms. Hinojosa has recorded and worked with Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Nanci Griffith, Pete Seeger, Flaco Jimenez, Los Lobos, and others. Among her discography is a bilingual children’s album. She will perform some of these songs at the matinee concert, which was added to encourage attendance by families and others who prefer daytime events.
Ms. Hinojosa is excited about her return to the Vineyard and the opportunity to finally play with Ms. Taylor, whose music she has been a fan of since long before the two met. This will be the only Christmas-themed concert on the tour and Ms. Hinojosa is looking forward to performing the songs from her 2003 holiday album, including the lively title tune, which showcases her exceptionally lovely voice and typifies the Tex-Mex sound that she has incorporated so well into her repertoire.
The Texas native has fond memories of the holidays of her childhood. Many of the Christmas songs are sung in both Spanish and English and reflect the joy of growing up in a large, close family.
“My mom was really hard-working and a great cook. There was always tortilla-making and other traditions. Ours was the house that everybody came to. Christmases at my house were always very big and lovely. Because of that I’ve always loved the holiday season and I always love performing the Christmas music.”
Spoon in the Moon Coffeehouse: Tish Hinojosa, “From Texas for a Christmas Night,” Saturday, Dec. 18, 4 and 8 pm, The Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. Hosted by Playhouse, Hummingbird Productions, and Kate Taylor. 4 pm: $12; free for under 12. 8 pm: $20. vineyardplayhouse.org; 508-696-6300 ext. 21.
Gwyn McAllister, of Oak Bluffs, is a frequent contributor to The Times.