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Rosie Flores: "Once More With Feeling"; H ighTone

September 02, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

In "Try Me," one of the dozen tunes Flores wrote or co-wrote for her third solo album, the L.A. based singer-songwriter sings: "No chip on my shoulder / Though I've been around/I've picked myself up / And I ain't goin' down / I've learned things the hard way / But like a rock I still stand / I may tumble and fall / But like a dancer I land." She not only expertly captures the sound of a woman who refuses to give in to romantic cynicism, she could also be describing her own career track.

Her short-lived stint as a major-label recording artist yielded little in the way of commercial rewards, even though her 1986 solo debut for Warner Bros. was a deftly written, dazzlingly sung effort from start to finish.

Her second album, 1992's "After the Farm," didn't take the music world by storm either, but you'd never know it from the fire in her voice on its successor.

While she can rock up a storm and even belt out a respectable blues, it's as a country writer and singer that this onetime member of the Screaming Sirens really stands apart from the crowd.

Her vocal alone in "Love and Danger," a duet with fellow Texas native Joe Ely, could go cord to cord with prime Tammy Wynette. Flores invokes a break in her voice with masterful restraint, its effect on the emotional impact like the first crack in a damn that lets the flood suddenly spew forth.

There's a spare rendition of "Bandera Highway" very close to the show-stopping performance she gave in June at the Coach House when she hopped on stage briefly during an "In Their Own Words" session by four other singer-songwriters.

If her veer into blues and straight-ahead rock near the end of the album seems a slightly unexpected left turn, it's not because she isn't convincing--just that those songs sound out of context on the heels of nine solidly country tunes.

Throughout even the most dour songs of love gone bad, the kind that define the very soul of country music--epitomized here by "It's Over," in which she begs a lover to "take the stars out of my eyes" before he walks out--Flores never sounds completely defeated, even though the stars may be gone, that lively spark never leaves her voice.

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