Rosie Flores/City Vineyard/November 27, 2017
Rosie Flores was born in San Antonio, Texas, and lived there until age 12, when her family moved to San Diego, Calif. She began singing as a child, and her brother taught her to play rhythm guitar when she was a teenager. She formed her first band, the bluesy Penelope’s Children, while still in high school, played the San Diego club circuit with an alt country band she led called Rosie & the Screamers in the 1970s, and was in the all-female cow-punk Screamin’ Sirens in the 1980s. After one album, Screamin’ Sirens split in 1987, and Flores embarked on a solo career. Her twelfth studio album, Simple Case of the Blues, will be released on Feb. 23, 2018. Flores currently resides in Austin, Texas, where the city council honored her by proclaiming a Rosie Flores Day in 2006 and in 2017.
Rosie Flores is best known as a rockabilly and alt-country music artist, but her catalog has included honky tonk, jazz, western swing, Tex-Mex, and rock and roll. Her forthcoming album is a collection of blues originals and covers, however, so at City Vineyard tonight her focus was on her interpretation of the blues. Brooklyn native Earl Slick, perhaps best known for his collaborations with David Bowie and John Lennon, accompanied Flores on stage playing acoustic and electric guitars. The set was loose, in that Slick seemed to be improvising through most of the performance and contributed fewer leads than one might have expected. Flores was a fine guitarist, however, and her picking and strumming complemented her torchy, heartfelt vocals. The set included only two country songs, and perhaps these were her most splendid moments. While her many blues numbers were enjoyable, a decision to showcase her upcoming blues album meant this was not the occasion for her wider range of music.
Hot Tuna/City Winery/November 28, 2017
In the 1950s, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady played guitar together as teenagers in Washington D.C., where they nurtured a love of the blues, country, and jazz. Kaukonen relocated to several cities, eventually landing a job teaching guitar in San Francisco. Invited in 1965 to join what would become Jefferson Airplane, Kaukonen invited Casady to come to the west coast and play bass in the band. Jefferson Airplane enjoyed success, but when the band took a hiatus in 1969, Kaukonen and Casady formed a side project called Hot Tuna, playing songs from Jefferson Airplane and covers of blues and country artists. Jefferson Airplane resumed touring, and Hot Tuna became its opening act. Jefferson Airplane ended in 1972, but Hot Tuna continued recording and touring as both an electric and acoustic band. Hot Tuna’s tenth and most recent studio album is 2011’s Steady as She Goes.
Hot Tuna performed a series of four concerts at City Winery, ending tonight, simply with Kaukonen on acoustic guitars and Casady on an oversized acoustic bass. This pared-down format allowed the two musicians to shine on their respective talents, with Kaukonen adroitly finger-picking to uncanny proficiency and Casady improvising intricate bass scales like the jazz masters. Covers of blues pioneers including Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson, along with Hot Tuna originals and songs that Kaukonen composed for his solo albums or for Jefferson Airplane, were all charged with stellar extensive instrumental interludes. While many contemporary artists are keeping alive the traditions of delta blues and Chicago blues, Kaukonen is one of the last well-known purveyors of Piedmont blues, so his deft manner on the strings was rather unique and totally mesmerizing. Kaukonen’s earthy talky-singing similarly honored the roots of this Appalachian heritage. Note: Kaukonen is 76 years old and Casady is 73; catch a lot of Hot Tuna shows while you can.
Miriam & Nobody’s Babies/The Bowery Electric/November 29, 2017
Miriam Linna was born in the Canadian city of Sudbury, Ontario, but began her musical career in New York as the original drummer for the Cramps in 1976. She then drummed for Nervus Rex, the Zantees and the A-Bones. She also became an author and publisher with her Kick Books and a record company head with her independent Norton Records. All was well until Hurricane Sandy in 2012 hit Norton’s Brooklyn warehouse, destroying the inaugural pressing of Kicks Books’ first title and hundreds of thousands of records, magazines, photographs, and documents. Linna not only rebounded, but also began recording albums under her singular first name. Now a front woman instead of positioning her behind a drum kit, Miriam’s second and most recent solo album is 2015’s Down Today.
Opening for L.A.M.F. tonight, Linna assembled a band large enough to cover virtually all available space on the Bowery Electric‘s small stage. With Linna singing in the forefront, the band played jangly vintage-sounding guitar-based pop. Linna’s vocals were sometimes buried by blaring garage-band guitar chords, but otherwise she sounded like she could have led the Shangri-Las or a similar 1960s vocal group. Several of the melodies built to rallying Phil Spector-like choruses. What Linna lacked in range or finesse was compensated by her gutsy and passionate delivery. This was rough and bumpy indie.
L.A.M.F./The Bowery Electric/November 29, 2017
Guitarist Johnny Thunders left the New York Dolls in 1975 and formed the Heartbreakers, sometimes billed as Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers to distinguish themselves from Tom Petty‘s band. The classic line-up of Thunder’s Heartbreakers was completed by guitarist Walter Lure, bassist Billy Rath and drummer Jerry Nolan. Together, they recorded the band’s sole studio album, 1977’s L.A.M.F. The Heartbreakers ruled the Manhattan club scene much as the New York Dolls had previously, but both bands suffered the same fate; they could not really break to a national level. The Heartbreakers ended shortly after the release of the album, although Thunders briefly reunited the band numerous times until his death in 1991. Nolan died in 1992 and Rath died in 2014, leaving Lure as the only surviving member of the album’s lineup. Since 1984, Lure has continued to play many Heartbreakers songs with his band the Waldos.
In 2016, Jesse Malin assembled an all-star band to commemorate 25 years since the passing of Thunders. That band consisted of Lure, former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer (who had played with Thunders in the short-lived Gang War), Replacements/Guns ‘N’ Roses bassist Tommy
Stinson, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, and several guest vocalists. This year’s concert commemorated the 40th anniversary of L.A.M.F., and the band consisted of Lure, Burke, Social Distortion guitarist Mike Ness, and Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock; Malin joined on vocals for three songs. The band performed the album except for “Baby Talk” (Lure told this reporter that nobody wanted to sing it), and then added a few more Thunders songs. The late show tonight at the Bowery Electric saw the band perform tightly, with the musicians contributing improvements to the arrangements in order to enhance all the songs with a contemporary rock and roll edge. This was more tribute than revival, a salute that attests to one major fact — solid rock and roll songs will never die.