Album Review

Rosie Flores - A Honky Tonk Reprise

Rosie Flores - A Honky Tonk Reprise

I first became familiar with Rosie Flores because of the fine company she keeps -- dueting with Dave Alvin, singing along with Bob Neuwirth, appearing on A Town Sound of Bakerfield, backing Chris Gaffney, touring with Wanda Jackson, contributing a track to the Tulare Dust Haggard tribute. These are some dang fine credentials, but in spite of them (or maybe because of them), I hadn't given Flores her due at center stage. Until now. A Honky Tonk Reprise is a welcome reissue of a record that was originally released as a self-titled LP in 1987 on Warner/Reprise, produced by Pete Anderson. This reissue also contains six previously unreleased tracks originally intended for a follow-up record that never happened. Those are the facts as stated in the liner notes. which also claim this record was one of the "gems of the New Traditionalist movement." That's an opinion, but one I'll back up 100%. Flores shows off her singing, songwriting ability, guitar prowess, and great taste all over the record. Things get started with "Crying Over You", a country tune by James Intveld that's so catchy and irresistible, it's an injustice that it didn't get tons of radio play. Most of the songs here are covers that were smartly selected and sweetly rendered. From the woman-wronged sadness of Harlan Howard's "God May Forgive You (But I Won't)" to the upbeat playfulness of Thelma Blackmon's "I Gotta Know" (made famous by Wanda Jackson) to the hard-core honky-tonk of Ted Daffan's "Truck Driver's Blues" to the rockabilly bounce of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking", Flores does it all with ease and style. The original songs also cover a lot of territory. "Midnight to Moonlight" is a pretty ballad that features David Hildago on accordion, "Heartache Train" is a feel-good singalong, and "Woman Walk Out the Door" is a no-nonsense feminist honky-tonk workout. All this range and variety is impressive, but it's only one contributing factor to the overall effect here. Song after song sounds great and feels even better, so that the record becomes more than the sum of its parts -- almost impossibly sweet and substantial at the same time. Rosie Flores made a heck of a record 10 years ago, one that shows her to be a worthy successor to Jean Shepard and Wanda Jackson, and we're lucky to be able to rediscover it.