TER­RELL’S TUNE-UP

Pasatiempo - - Pop Cd Reviews - Steve Ter­rell

The re­turn of rock­a­billy Rosie

In the realm of rock­a­billy and rock­ing coun­try, one ma­jor un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated voice is that of Rosie Flores. Though she’s never en­joyed much fame of her own, Flores — who’s spent most of her life be­tween Texas and Cal­i­for­nia — did a lot to res­ur­rect the ca­reers of rock­a­billy pi­o­neer­sWanda Jack­son and Ja­nis Martin. Flores con­vinced both to come out of re­tire­ment to help out on her al­bum Rock­a­billy Filly back in 1995. And Flores’ ver­sion of “Red Red Robin,” which ap­peared on a Blood­shot Records chil­dren’s al­bum a few years ago, is not only the great­est ver­sion of that song I’ve ever heard, but it’s also the de­fin­i­tive song of spring.

It’s been too many years since sweet Rosie has graced us with an al­bum of new ma­te­rial. Ex­cept for a Christ­mas record and a live al­bum, her new one, Girl of the Cen­tury, is her first since 2001’s Speed of Sound. She’s got one fine band be­hind her— The Pine Val­ley Cos­mo­nauts, led by Jon Lang­ford (The Mekons, The Waco Broth­ers) and fea­tur­ing Jon Rice on pedal steel, fid­dle, and other stringed in­stru­ments and Tom Ray on stand-up bass.

There’s some solid rock­a­billy here with Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm,” “This Lit­tle Girl’s Gone Rockin’,” and “This Cat’s in the Dog­house.” Flores sings a cou­ple of Lang­ford tunes— “Half­way Home” and “Last Song”— both of which sound like the type of bal­lads TheWaco Broth­ers fa­vor when they do slower songs. But my fa­vorite track is “Who’s Gonna Take Your Garbage Out,” a duet with Lang­ford that was orig­i­nally recorded by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn. There’s some clas­sic hill­billy hu­mor here. The best line is “Callin’ a man like you a hus­band is just like callin’ old wild cat a pet.”

An­other classy Flores/Lang­ford duet is “Lit­tle Bells,” a song writ­ten by alt-coun­try honky­tonker Paul Burch (from his re­cent al­bum Still Your Man). It’s the type of tune Ray Price would have killed back in his early days.

The al­bum ends with the ti­tle song, a slow tune fea­tur­ing a Span­ish gui­tar. As far as slow ones go, I vastly pre­fer the sexy, jazzy “Dark Enough at Mid­night.” Check out rosieflo­res.com.

Also rec­om­mended:

Hon­ey­moon by The Hand­some Fam­ily. This lat­est al­bum by The Hand­some Fam­ily, re­leased ear­lier this year, is ac­tu­ally a theme al­bum. As the ti­tle im­plies, the theme is love. It’s ba­si­cally Brett and Rennie Sparks’ an­niver­sary gift to them­selves, as they have been mar­ried 20 years. It’s not that they haven’t tack­led the sub­ject of love in the past— just never in such a con­cen­trated form and never so sin­cerely. As Brett’s bari­tone strains for the high notes in the re­frain of “My Friend” and in “The Lone­li­ness of Mag­nets,” he sounds as if he’s em­body­ing the lovesick blues.

The Hand­somes — who have lived in Al­bu­querque for the past sev­eral years and have played here a cou­ple of times (in­clud­ing a Plaza Band­stand gig in 2007)— are known for dark and twisted tunes (lyrics all by Rennie) that fea­ture mytho­log­i­cal mo­tifs of­ten wrapped in mun­dane, mod­ern im­agery.

The tunes on Hon­ey­moon are lighter in spirit but no less po­etic than their songs on pre­vi­ous al­bums. Take the first verse of “A Thou­sand Di­a­mond Rings”: “A smashed wind­shield, the dust of a pickup truck / Shin­ing with sil­ver se­crets in the Al­bu­querque sun / The light makes jew­els of pawn shops and drive-through banks / Wrin­kled faces star­ing out of the laun­dro­mat/ And even the bro­ken glass in the street / Shines like a thou­sand di­a­mond rings.”

But don’t worry, Hand­some fans. The sweet weird­ness of Mr. and Mrs. Sparks hasn’t van­ished. It’s not all sweet­ness and light on this Hon­ey­moon. For one thing, this al­bum is full of bugs. There’s a “cloud of honey bees” in “Down in theWind­ing Corn Maze.” And “June Bugs” is a slow coun­try waltz full of huggy, kissy lyrics in which spring­time and reawak­en­ing love are sym­bol­ized by June bugs and hawk moths re­turn­ing to the yard.

But the great­est bug song of all is “Dar­ling, My Dar­ling,” which is sung from the per­spec­tive of a lusty male in­sect will­ing to give all to the gnaw­ing fangs of a fe­male in­sect lover. Now that’s true love! Learn more about The Hand­some Fam­ily at hand­some­fam­ily.com.

Shine by Nancy Ap­ple. This Mem­phis coun­try singer hasn’t done an al­bum with a full band in sev­eral years. With this one— recorded at Sun Stu­dio in her home­town and pro­duced by Keith Sykes— she’s back with a vengeance.

The al­bum starts out with a Ronny El­liott song, the slow, pretty “Cre­ole Boy­With a Span­ish Gui­tar.” But just when you think this is go­ing to be a strictly mel­low af­fair, Ap­ple slaps you in the back of the head with “Voodoo Woman,” a bluesy romp fea­tur­ing a wild har­mon­ica (by Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms).

An­other wild ride is “Rockin’ Granny,” a song for Ap­ple’s friend Cordell Jack­son, a crazy rocker dur­ing her life­time. (True story: Ap­ple was in New Mex­ico, ap­pear­ing on my ra­dio show The Santa Fe Opry, the day she got word of Jack­son’s death in 2004. She had to cut her trip short, re­turn­ing to Mem­phis to sing at Jack­son’s fu­neral.)

A cou­ple of my fa­vorite Ap­ple songs are on this CD. “Cat­head Bis­cuits and Gravy,” which first ap­peared on a duet al­bum with singer-song­writer Rob McNurlin, gets a full coun­try-band treat­ment here, with McNurlin shar­ing the vo­cals. The al­bum ends with “Moon­light Over Mem­phis,” a soul­ful bal­lad that Ap­ple wrote, in­spired by moon­light over the Jémez Moun­tains on one of her trips to New Mex­ico. See nan­cyap­ple.com.

Hear songs from th­ese al­bums on

The Santa Fe Opry: 10 p.m. Fri­day on KSFR-FM 101.1 and stream­ing at ksfr.org. And don’t for­get Ter­rell’s Sound World, same time, same sta­tion on Sun­day.

Christ­mas En­chi­lada: Red and green pod­cast fea­tur­ing some of my fa­vorite Christ­mas songs, avail­able for free at bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com.

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