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Rosie and Nashville Make Their Peace

After three decades of playing outside the country mainstream, Flores is living in Music City and loving it.

October 18, 2000|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The brand of stinging roots-country music that singer-songwriter-guitarist Rosie Flores specializes in has long put her at odds with the conventional sounds and sentiments favored by the country establishment in Nashville.

So after almost three decades carving her creative niche from headquarters first in Texas and then Southern California, it makes perfect sense that Flores has a new base of operations in . . . Nashville?

"I really like it here," Flores, 45, says on her cell phone while negotiating the often-bewildering winding roads of Music City on her way to a studio to start recording an album she hopes to have in stores next spring.

"One of the things I'm enjoying most is that a lot of my dear friends from the music scene in L.A.--people who used to hang around at the early Ronnie Mack barn dances at the Palomino [club in North Hollywood]--live here now," Flores says. "People like Jim Lauderdale, Lucinda Williams, Steve Fishell, they're all here--and I see them a lot more than I did when we were all living in L.A."

The reason for the move is she signed recently with Nashville-based Eminent Records, a label started by country queen Emmylou Harris, although Harris has since moved off the label for her own recordings.

"It's kind of cool," Flores says, "because now I can be signed to a label and it's in the same town with my booking agent and everything is in one spot."

Everything in one spot, however, is the antithesis of Flores' approach to music. She's followed an ever restless path that's coursed through rockabilly, pure country, Tex-Mex, cow punk, blues and R&B on her own as well as with various musical collaborations.

Those include her own late-'70s band, Rosie & the Screamers, and the early-'80s L.A. female cow punk group the Screamin' Sirens through two current side projects: Las Super Tejanas, a female answer to Los Super Seven all-star Tex-Mex group, and HenHouse, an ensemble with several respected country and folk singer-songwriters.

She'll be back in the Southland this week on a brief concert tour that reaches Abilene Rose in Fountain Valley on Saturday after a date Friday at the Culver Saloon in Culver City.

While in town, she also plans to do some recording with drummer Jeff Donovan and bassist Russell Scott (of Russell Scott & the Red Hots), whom she refers to as "my L.A. rhythm section."

"We'll get both ends involved" in the new album, she says. They'll also be in her band for the shows this weekend.

In HenHouse, she plays alongside Asleep at the Wheel multi-instrumentalist Cindy Cashdollar, keyboardist Becky Hobbs, bassist Sarah Brown and drummer Lisa Pankratz.

Flores has a Chicago date coming up with Las Super Tejanas, a group of female Tex-Mex musicians including singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa, accordionist Eva Ybarra ("She's incredible," Flores says, "right up there with Flaco [Jimenez]"), Shelly Laras and the mariachi trio Las Madrugadoras.

"I was actually in an early version of Los Super Seven with Joe Ely and Rick Trevino, but I felt like I kinda got aced out because I was a gal," she says.

"They brought in Los Lobos and Freddy Fender after I'd done a couple of performances with them in Austin at the South By Southwest festival.

Rather than mope--this is, after all, the woman who once wrote: "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"--Flores just said "OK, let's do the girl [version] then."

"Eventually it would be really cool if we could turn this thing into a recording group," she adds. "All that Mexican polka music and the heart-wrenching [ballads] are so much fun, and people like to see girls [rock out] like that."

Indeed, given Flores' status as one of the very few females who always could hold her own as an instrumentalist with the male counterparts in the roots-rock and country community, she would have seemed perfect for the "Women Rock!" concert in Los Angeles that will be shown Sunday as a special on Lifetime cable channel.

"I guess you have to be with a major label to be special anymore," Flores says without a hint of bitterness or regret. "I've given up getting frustrated, because I feel I do have a place in music. I feel respected and I feel thankful for being a little fish in a big pond. I can be a little happier that way. I may not be rich, but I'm getting along just fine."

SHOW TIMES

Rosie Flores plays Friday at the Culver Saloon, 11513 Washington Blvd., Culver City. With the Paladins. (310) 391-1519. Also Saturday at Abilene Rose, 10830 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley. With Kevin Banford & the Bakersfield Boys. 9 p.m. $10. (714) 963-1700.

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