Rosie Flores & Wanda Jackson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Rosie Flores & Wanda Jackson 

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Like many in the state from which she hails, native Texan Rosie Flores has been playing what folks in the biz call alternative country (or more recently, Americana) for years. It's too uppity for country radio, too twangy for rockers, but Flores has embraced her cross-pollinated idiosyncrasies proudly. Her latest album, Rockabilly Filly (Hightone), delves into one of her many passions, as made clear by its title. From unfettered barn burners to swinging honky-tonk to weepy ballads, Flores, despite a less than accommodating voice, gallops through exuberant musical retrogression with aplomb, focusing on a fine driving, hiccupping beat. The record philanthropically places some of the spotlight on the great Wanda Jackson, who sings a pair of hot duets with Flores. Until she became a devout Christian while singing wholesome country music in the 60s, Jackson recorded some of the wildest, most scorching rockabilly ever laid to wax--she's best known for her minor 1960 hit "Let's Have a Party," an early ode to condoms and the all-night sex they allow. Her singing ranges from purring enchantments to whoops of deliciously vulgar carnality. "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad" (1956) celebrated psychological torture as an effective method to control men, while "Mean Mean Man" (1960) celebrates her masochism, but nothing testified to her unabashed lasciviousness like "Fujiyama Mama," a storming, politically incorrect rocker that likened her corporeal charms to atomic explosions: "I been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima too / The things I did to them, baby, I can do to you." By 1967 Jackson was singing "A Girl Don't Have to Drink to Have Fun," which simply meant a Bible lesson was more righteous than a romp in the hay, although her singing on her gee-whiz country material remained terrific. She's continued performing but because of her Christian lifestyle she tends to eschew playing where there's firewater. Whether Jackson can momentarily shake that sanctified spirit is a question well worth seeking an answer to. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. If you've picked up the paper Thursday you can catch them at 10 PM at the Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 549-7700.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ed Colvin.


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