Tish Hinojosa,
Sign of Truth
(Rounder, 2000)

Since the 1996 release of Dreaming From the Labyrinth/Sonar del Laberinto (actually two albums -- the first released in English, the second in Spanish), Texas's own Tish Hinojosa has been oddly quiet. With the recent Latino explosion of such acts as Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglasias and others, I expected Tish to skyrocket along with them. However, Hinojosa has always been ahead of her time -- she was a strong, political female lead far before Sarah Maclachlan and the Lilith Fair made it cool, and she was glorifying in the heritage and sounds of the Latino world years before Ricky had us shaking our bon-bons. Then again, she's always stood out from easy labels (similar to other Texas greats Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett) -- she's too Spanish for country, too American for tejano, too country for pop, and so on.

With her new album, Sign of Truth, Hinojosa finds a new voice -- one of maturity, longing, sorrow and regret. She's cut her long hair as if breaking away from her younger self. This wife and mother of many years, activist for Latino-Americans and children, and folk-roots artist, has crafted an album blending her diverse roots, calling upon a vast array of musical influences (from the mandolin, octoblaster and charango to Texas legend Lloyd Maine's steel guitar), with songs that mostly stay true to the title of the album -- looking for answers, redemption and peace.

She soars on upbeat tracks such as the title track, "Faded Souvenirs" and "Wildflowers." She brings us back down with slower tracks, such as "Mona Lisa by the Rio Grande" and "I Have No Answers." The gem on this album, in my opinion, has to be "Fence Post," a heartwrenching and simple song where the artist compares herself to an old, beaten-up fence post that nevertheless still stands despite all it has seen. You can picture yourself sitting by yourself watching the rainfall against your window and contemplating your own place in the universe.

I've been a fan of Tish Hinojosa for years, and I'm happy to see that as she grows as an artist, she still creates complex and endearing albums that you can't help but tap your feet to. Her voice is a both a pleasant journey through the southwest and a contradiction of cultures -- switching easily between English and Spanish. If you have not heard this fabulous artist before, rush to your local music store and find out what many of us have known for years -- it just doesn't get much getter than Tish.

[ by Timothy Keene ]

Buy Sign of Truth from Amazon.com.