Early in Rosie Flores's career, she seemed to want to be a bad-girl rocker and a honky-tonk angel at the same time. In the 70s and early 80s she cut her teeth in rockabilly and cowpunk bands in southern California; her 1987 solo debut, Rosie Flores, was produced by Dwight Yoakam's guitarist, and the single "Crying Over You" made some noise on the country charts. On her forthcoming Speed of Sound (Eminent) Flores is still straddling genres, though now she's divided between righteous rockabilly and ironic neoswing. Jivey throwaways like "Rock-a-Bye Boogie" and "Somebody's Someone" sound tailor-made for retro hipsters, and she sings faux 40s ballads like "Don't Know if I'm Comin' or Goin'" with the breathy seductiveness of a film noir vixen and the worldliness of a barfly. But she sounds more in her element on rootsier fare, like Buck Owens's "Hot Dog": her lithe vocals and swinging rhythmic drive evoke Bob Wills, not the watered-down jump blues that often passes for swing these days, and her gutsy, elemental guitar leads stick firmly with the grand roadhouse tradition. On "Don't Take It Away," a Bo Diddley-style stomper, her reedy soprano quivers with pent-up fury, cracks with desperation, then finally ascends into glorious surrender. And the title tune, the disc's standout track, combines a tale of a woman hitting the road to escape a shattered love affair with a dreamlike soundscape of synthesizers, gently pulsating rhythm guitar, and a ghostly pedal steel; Flores's lyrics are as vivid as a nightmare, and the images she chooses--a fast car, the freeway disappearing beneath its wheels--aren't so much cliches as archetypes, giving the song the impact of myth. Sunday, April 22, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.