I have, as I’m sure the kids never say nowadays, been digging this album for a couple of weeks now. Don’t think I’ve ever said that before myself either, come to think of it.
But I digress. The point is that with Simple Case Of Blues Austin-based Rosie Flores has come up with an album of the most straightforwardly engaging old-fashioned rhythm’n’blues you could wish for. There’s nothing innovative about it, but who gives a shit? What it is, is very well done, and fun, fun, fun.
The tone is set beautifully by the opening track, Roy Brown’s ‘Love Don’t Love Nobody’, a tootling piece of blues that could easily have emerged from Sun Studios in the
Fifties. It swings with ease, and with Flores’ pinging guitar solo thrown into the mix, backed up by another from Kenny Vaughan, you could easily imagine the Stray Cats being a mite envious. I could do without the yelps of emphasis in Flores’ vocals, a trick repeated later on the old-time R’n’B-cum-rockabilly of ‘I Want To Do More’, which also has piano and sax to the fore, and also on the jump-bluesy ‘Till The Well Runs Dry’. But I’ll forgive her given the quality of her phrasing and delivery throughout the album as a whole.
|Rosie Flores - knows her onions, as they rarely say in Austin|
And in fact her voice grabs the attention for all the right reasons on the likes of Dwight Yoakam’s ‘If There Was A Way’, a Fats Domino-like ballad that’s all steady piano and the twinkling of two intertwined guitars, over the top of which Flores produces a characterful vocal that puts me very much in mind of Maria McKee on her excellent album You’ve Got To Sin To Get Saved, and you can’t say fairer than that. The same comparison is valid for the excellent closer ‘If You Need Me’, previously recorded by Wilson Pickett, and another aching slowie, here with a country-esque spoken verse. And if Flores doesn’t quite hit those heights on the earlier ‘Mercy Fell Like Rain’ it’s still a spot-on slow blues, with sparse, reverb-heavy chiming guitar chords, washes of organ courtesy of Mike Flanigin, a suitably plaintive vocal, and expressive guitar playing throughout.
The title track is a cracking tune, a tale of heartache redolent of scrappy Sixties R’n’B, with a simple, on-the-money retro sound – and in fact the production has an appealing old-time quality throughout. ‘Drive Drive Drive’ is a slinky, mid-paced road song, while ‘Enemy Hands’, comes from the pen of bass player Dave Roe, and is smoky and sultry, with another aching vocal, and a reflective, understated guitar solo that’s really quite delectable.
Chuck in another irresistible little jump-bluesy affair in the form of ‘That’s What You Gotta Do’, all walking bass, parping horn riff and tinkling ivories, and the Sean Costello-ish guitar instrumental ‘Teenage Rampage’, and you’ve got an album full of charm and wit.
Simple Case Of The Blues isn’t a heavyweight masterpiece. It is, however, damn good. Flores has been at this game for more years than it would be courteous to specify, starting off playing the blues and assimilating punk, alt.country and rockabilly along the way. So she knows her onions, and together with co-producer Charlie Sexton, and crack musos like Roe and Flanigin, she’s put together an album that sounds traditional and fresh at the same time. And, it's worth repeating, it’s great fun.