Rosie Flores shifts the focus to her guitar skills

Contributing Music WriterApril 19, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    Rosie Flores. Kentucky Hoss Cats

    When: 8 p.m. April 23

    Where: Willie's Locally Known, 805 N. Broadway

    Tickets: $10

    Call: (859) 281-1116

    Online: Willieslex.com, Rosieflores.com

You would think with a career that spans more than three decades, more people would know who Rosie Flores is and the kind of musical munitions she packs.

Her most devout fans have always gotten the picture, from her days in the late 1970s as part of a booming Los Angeles punk/roots movement to her celebrated tenure as the "Rockabilly Filly" to her recent moonlighting as a vintage jazz singer in her Texas home base of Austin. Get even a little beyond that, though, and you'll find a mainstream audience that could use some schooling on Flores' music and career.

Luckily, there is a recent primer record, Working Girl's Guitar, that should beautifully refresh everyone's minds as to the soul, sass and drive behind her fun but scholarly roots music.

The most important lesson, as taught by the album: understanding where the guitar sound is coming from.

"Working Girl's Guitar is one of those records where I was the only guitar player," said Flores, who returns to Lexington for a performance Wednesday at Willie's Locally Known. "That was important because I've been touring that way for so many years.

"A lot of my records would have all of these different guest guitarists playing with me, and that's great and everything. But I think one of the things confusing people, especially if you listen to the radio, is that they always wind up wondering which guitar solo is really me. So I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty, to where there would be no question as to who is playing guitar on the record.

"I wanted to be marketed that way, too, so people would know that I'm a guitar player. You think about Bonnie Raitt and you go, 'She's a great guitar player.' But people have just never thought of me that way. That was one of the reasons I wanted to make sure that I played everything on the record."

Flores' other main concern was opening up even veteran fans to a broader scope of inspirations on Working Girl's Guitar. Sure, Drugstore Rock and Roll continues Flores' devotion to rockabilly empress Janis Martin. But the sounds open out from there. Surf Demon #5 is all hot rod twang; Love Must Have Passed By cools the engines for some late 1960s pop melancholy, complete with harmony vocals by Bobby Vee; and the album-closing cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps approximates Django Reinhardt-style swing.

"I wanted to move away from just strictly rockabilly and let people know where I was coming from as far as all the different decades I've been alive and grooving on music," she said. "So my first decade was the '50s and the rockabilly. Next was the girl group era and Motown, as well as surf. Then came The Beatles and my R&B influences. After that was rock 'n' roll and punk rock. So the record is a little bit diverse, but at least it shows a little bit of all of my sides. It makes my shows a little more interesting vocally, as well."

But perhaps the most the telling tune on Working Girl's Guitar is the title song. Flores provided the inspiration — and the guitar. Fellow Austin songsmith Ritchie Mintz came up with the rest.

"Almost a year before I started work on this album, I had an extra Taylor guitar that I didn't need," Flores said. "So I brought the guitar over to Ritchie's house, and he kept it overnight. He called me up the next day and said, 'Your guitar wrote a song for you.' So he played me Working Girl's Guitar, which had been written from the guitar's point of view.

"So you see? Our guitars really do take care of us."

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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