Live review: Rosie Flores and friends -- a slice of honky-tonk heaven
L.A.’s downtown revitalization committee has a new selling point: in addition to the upscale entertainment complex mushrooming out around Staples Center and the conversion of historic old buildings into townhouses, condos and artists’ lofts, there are signs that downtown might just turn into the region’s new honky-tonk capital.
That certainly was the case Friday night, in perhaps the most unlikely setting imaginable: the pirate-themed Redwood Bar on 2nd Street, which in recent months has been hosting a steady stream of roots-music and alt-rock shows. Rosie Flores, Jann Browne and Patty Booker, three of the most distinctive singer-songwriters to grace the Southern California alt-country music scene over the last three decades, teamed up for a rollicking collaboration they’re calling “Our Ladies of Perpetual Honky Tonk.”
It was their first outing as a trio on a short run of dates up and down the state over the next two weeks, winding up Sept. 9 at the Cowboy Palace in Chatsworth. They’re getting superb backing from steel guitar ace Greg Leisz, guitarist Matt Barnes (Browne’s musical partner) and veteran L.A. drummer Don Heffington, who turned the round-robin session into a guitar pull with muscle.
Flores set the tone by starting the evening with Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and from there the passion and joy of music in and of the moment obliterated any worries about lack of polish.
In fact, the absence of sheen made it that much more like a genuine honky-tonk, where the players fly by the seat of their pants and tackle whatever strikes their fancy at a given moment. The set list, such as it wasn’t, included sterling covers and lots of originals, from Browne’s “Louisville,” a song she wrote with Pat Gallagher and that fellow traveler Dwight Yoakam recorded, to Booker’s deliciously unapologetic confession “Hell Yes I Cheated.”
Flores’ irresistibly bouncy “Palomino Days” offered a love letter to the long-defunct North Hollywood club that for decades was ground zero for dirt-parking-lot country music around these parts, a place where it wasn’t uncommon for rockers like Elvis Costello to show up to catch Jerry Lee Lewis or Waylon Jennings or George Jones.
Whether this trio will develop into a long-term enterprise remains to be seen, but if there is a god in honky-tonk heaven, it should. Individually, each is a treasure; together, the periodic blending of three voices that run from angelic purity to whiskey-soaked grittiness, along with the captivating interplay among these three personalities, made a compelling combination. It’s enticing to imagine what may develop once they have a few more gigs under their belts.
Miss them during this incarnation at your own peril.
-- Randy Lewis