Album Review: Rosie Flores — Working Girl’s Guitar
Rosie Flores kicks out the jams on the opening lick of her energetic new album and never lets up until last note of the final track. One of the hardest working guitarists in roots music, Flores cranks up her Fender, her fingers nimbly flying over and around blues bars, country chords, and rock riffs. She delivers straight-ahead, blistering rock and roll on the opening, and title, track, that’s a tribute to the instrument by which she makes her living, a guitar that’s been “smashed and got scars and played in palaces and in bars.” Flores lets her guitar do the talking, and it riffs off into a tale of a “working girl’s guitar/I play in town/I travel far/fly by air, drive by car,” as well as about the ups and downs of life on stage: “We play the lover, we play the fool/ sing about life and the golden rule/going to the top to be a star.” In a wry comment on the loneliness of life on the road, the guitar concludes its story: “when the show is through/the working girl goes home to a lonely single room/where she’s cold and all alone/but, hey, what’s that I see/it’s a mandolin with a guy that’s free/c’mon, baby, come home with me/we’ll play all night in harmony.” The final licks on the Ritchie Mintz-penned tune conjure up a battle of the guitar-slingers with Kenny Vaughan, Marty Stuart, and Flores, but it’s simply Flores alone dazzlingly soaring over the frets.
In “Little But I’m Loud,” the guitar hooks up with an amp that “ain’t foolin’ around/just ask anybody here/lift me up/don’t turn me down.” The amp declares proudly, “I rise above the crowd/I’m little but I’m loud,” boasting “If I wanted, it goes to eleven” and “when I’m here with you it’s like ‘Stairway to Heaven.’” As in a Hendrix song, the little amp never lets up as it fades into feedback.
Flores energetically covers Janis Martin’s “Drugstore Rock and Roll” with a jumpin’ jukebox rockabilly sound that won’t let you sit still, and in the bluesy “If,” Flores dispenses blazing leads straight out of Eric Clapton’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Flores straps on her rumbling surf guitar in “Surf Dream #5,” which launches with a rocketing snare like The Surfaris’ classic “Wipe Out,” and her cover of the old Elvis hit, “Too Much,” demonstrates her dazzling virtuosity as she runs the frets frenetically, her voice growling like Wanda Jackson’s.
Flores is just as electrifying when she slows it down, and “Love Must Have Passed Me By,” a duet with Bobby Vee, is a classic teenage ballad of lost love, settling in with the tender chords of early pop songs. The album’s best track is Flores’s poignant tribute to the late Duane Jarvis, “Yeah, Yeah,” in which the yearning of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” whose lyrical and musical style the song closely resembles, meets the hip harmony of the early songs of The Roches and the haunting pedal steel licks, played here by Greg Leisz, of the Eagles’ cover of Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55.” Against this mournful, yet powerful, sound, Flores declares that “love makes everyone a part of everything.”
There’s not a bad song on this album, and these tracks demonstrate the Rockabilly Filly’s tremendous diversity and mastery of many styles. Flores certainly deserves her place on anybody’s list of top guitarists.
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