When Rosie Flores recently sold a vintage guitar to a fellow Austin TX musician, he dubbed the beat up beauty a real “working girl’s guitar.” The next day he called with what would be the title track to her latest album, but, as he told Rosie, “I didn’t write it, the guitar did.” It’s a poetically apt story to sum up the transcendental spirit and music of a road survivor like Rosie Flores.
Rosie Flores, the Rockabilly Filly, the versatile virtuoso on the working girl’s guitar, strips it down to the lean meat of her playing, singing, and songwriting on her 11th album. For the first time, Rosie handles all production duties and covers all the guitar bases and, consequently, Working Girl’s Guitar crackles with a loose, straightforward energy fit to be played everywhere from palaces to bars.
Right out of the gate, Rosie fires up her big-chord guns—because, at its heart, any Rosie record is a guitar record—for songs that tell some hard-learned tales. Resonating with miles of grit, grace and determination, the anthemic title track gallops out of the sunrise, and the Texas blues rave-up “Little But I’m Loud,” throws some serious devil longhorns. The instrumental “Surf Demon #5” rides some slinky West Texas waves, and the chunky guitar on the King’s classic “Too Much” is a muscular contrast to her sly come-hither purrs. And don’t overlook Rosie in full-on rockabilly rumble mode with the Janis Martin cover of “Drugstore Rock and Roll.”
But there’s more than just six-string heroics on Working Girl’s Guitar. “Yeah, Yeah,” a gorgeous tribute to a fellow road dog, the late Duane Jarvis, channels some languid, longing Beatles-inflected pop. Adding to the light that glows through the sadness is pedalsteel player Greg Leisz, the prolific West Coast multiinstrumentalist who has appeared on recordings by Alisters such as Dave Alvin, Wilco, Sheryl Crow, Robert Plant, and Bon Iver.
The elegantly cool “Love Must Have Passed Me By” is an old school countrypolitan duet with the pop music legend Bobby Vee (“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” “Take Good Care of My Baby”). “If” is straight up soulful street corner doo-wop and the re-imagining of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” adds some Django Reinhardt here and some shuffle there, imbuing it with an elegiac gentleness reminiscent of the Everly Brothers.
Beginning in the late ‘70s with her rockabilly punk band the Screamin’ Sirens, Rosie Flores has crafted a pioneering career in the roots underground. She was an integral part of the Los Angeles New Traditionalist scene that gave rise to Dwight Yoakam, the Blasters and Los Lobos; recorded with Ray Campi, rockabilly and riot grrrl icons Janis Martin, and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Wanda Jackson. Her last album, Girl of the Century (released on Bloodshot in 2009) was a collaboration with Jon Langford (Waco Brothers, Mekons). Rosie also raised funds for and produced the recently released posthumous Janis Martin album The Blanco Sessions.