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February 2021

Rosie Flores
Simple Case of the Blues

Last Music Company

Rosie Flores

In an earlier version of my radio show, more than 25 years ago, I occasionally played a song from  alt country / roots rocker guitarist and singer Rosie Flores. That number, "Rosebud Blues," from her Once More With Feeling album, would draw some raised eyebrows from the blues purists in the audience, but it was a killer blues song that long made me wish for a full album of blues from Ms. Flores.

Well, here it is. Released in late 2018, Simple Case of the Blues (Last Music Company) was worth the wait, especially since I only just recently became aware of it. It is absolutely a fantastic set of music by an artist who pays tribute to the music she was playing in bars early in her music career in her native San Antonio. Simple Case of the Blues contains 13 cuts of well-chosen covers plus a few of Ms. Flores' own compositions.

The album opens with a very fine version of Roy Brown's "Love Don't Love Nobody," with Flores injecting a touch of early rockabilly to her voice while also sharing very nice guitar licks with co-producer Kenny Vaughan. A stunning slow blues, "Mercy Fell Like Rain," follows, with the pain and angst in Flores' voice in full display, along with her crisp guitar leads. Mike Flanigin lays down a solid foundation on B3. "Mercy Fell Like Rain" just might be the highlight of this gem of an album. The twang in Flores' voice comes out again on the Lieber / Stoller composition, "I Want To Do More," a head-boppin' stop-time number that gives the listener several nice guitar and piano solos. Ruth Brown had a hit with this tune back in the '50s, and it's easy to see why.

Flores' first original number, the mid-tempo title cut, is a snaky blues with plenty of power coming from her voice. Another original tune, "Drive Drive Drive," is a slower driving song, featuring very tasteful harmonica accompaniment from Greg Izor. Wynona Carr had a hit back in the day from the R&B jump blues, "Till the Well Runs Dry," and Flores fashions this '50s-era stomper into her own style, with killer sax work from Greg Williams. Flores then stays close to her alt country roots with a cover of the Dwight Yoakam slow burner, "If There Was a Way," turning it into more of a soul anthem, with her powerful voice being complemented by R&B backing vocals.

The jump-time shuffle, "That's What You Gotta Do," was originally done by Ella Johnson 65 years ago, with Flores paying tribute to that era of big bands and big sounds while also laying down a stunning guitar solo. Yes, this album has a lot of very diverse styles of blues and soul, but they all blend together well. Another snaky, late-night blues ballad is up next, with Flores pouring out the confusion about her latest relationship on "Enemy Hands," written by co-producer Dave Roe along with John Alford. Lots of eerie guitar sounds coming out on this one.

Flores steps away from the microphone so that she and Vaughan can both show off on guitar on the original instrumental, "Teenage Rampage." I'm picking up a bit of a Link Wray vibe here. This portion of the album closes with a slow soul ballad, "If You Need Me," a Wilson Pickett composition that was once a hit for Solomon Burke. Another highlight.

But wait, there's more, with a pair of bonus cuts added to at least some versions of this album. Flores covers the Steve Winwood number, "Can't Find My Way Home," a slow, soulful country-ish tune with nice dobro accompaniment. It's followed by a rapid-paced "I'm Not Talking," a Mose Allison original that was also done by The Yardbirds. This one brings out a bit of Flores' punk attitude while giving her chance to tear it up on guitar.

Simple Case of the Blues brings together a lot of sides of Rosie Flores, all of it blending well into a very cohesive set of blues and other sounds. Highly recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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