Simple Case of the Blues
Last Music Company
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'
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,"
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
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