It’s telling that Rosie Flores’ e-mail handle begins “chickwpick…” In a long and eclectic career of singing, songwriting and performing, no phrase has ever described the San Antonio native better or more concisely.
But now, with the release of her latest album, Flores takes square aim at a genre she has only sampled heretofore. Simple Case of the Blues showcases Flores in a new light, as a seasoned performer steeped in life’s uncompromising lessons. At once torchy, soulful, heartfelt and yearning, the songs on Simple Case of the Blues are not for the emotionally naïve—it’s the music you make when you’ve come through joy and heartbreak and back again.
Utilizing songs by Roy Brown, Wilson Pickett, Heath Wilson, and Flores herself, Simple Case of the Blues was produced by songwriter/guitarist Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan, The Arc Angels). With an assist by guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams), Simple Case of the Blues was, to hear Flores tell it, a long time coming.
“I got infatuated with the blues in high school,” said Flores, who played in a band called Penelope’s Children during those years. “It was the first music I ever played. A high school friend taught me some chords and mentored me. He introduced me to the blues. He went on to play in the King Biscuit Blues Band, so I felt like I got a great early education.
“I always loved Buddy Guy—his real lyrical playing. It’s like his guitar is having its own conversation. It’s an ongoing process; I’ve mastered the life of a musician, but I’ll be working on the guitar for the rest of my life.”
In a career that spans more than four decades, Flores has proven to be a musical chameleon. She’s jumped feet first into punk rock (with her ’70-era band, the Screaming Sirens), country of both the Bakersfield and Nashville varieties, the Texas singer/songwriter scene, alt-country, straight-up rock and rockabilly. So much so the latter that her onstage moniker for years was “The Rockabilly Filly.” But always and throughout, she has been the Chick with the Pick.
Over the years, Flores has been profiled in Guitar World, Premiere Guitar and Guitar Player magazines. Venuszine cited Flores as one of the “Top 75 Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time” by Venuszine magazine. She performed at a tribute to Chuck Berry at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. She has worked with, and helped propel back in to the spotlight, pioneer female rockabilly artists Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin. In 2007, she won a Peabody Award for her narration of the rockabilly documentary, Whole Lotta Shakin’. She worked with Martin in producing the latter’s 2012 album, The Blanco Sessions, which would prove to be Martin’s last recording.
Throughout, she released her own work. To name but a few, they include her solo debut, 1987’s Rosie Flores, 1995’s Rockabilly Filly, 1999’s Dance Hall Dreams, the acoustic live set Single Rose in 2004, 2009’s Girl of the Century and, in 2012, the aptly-named, self-produced Working Girl’s Guitar. Since then, her time has been spent on her labor of love—Simple Case of the Blues.
Though she has toured around the world, Flores always returns to her adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, where she was honored with Rosie Flores day in 2006 (an honor she was accorded once again in 2017). Cover stories in the Austin Chronicle and Austin Woman magazine have codified her status as one of the city’s most celebrated musicians.
“She’s a hard-working, independently minded artist who’s well-respected for her gritty, energetic vocals and fiery guitar solos,” writes the authoritative website Allmusic.com. “Prolifically creative, Flores deserves to be numbered among the creators of the alternative country movement.” Now, with Simple Case of the Blues, Flores is making a full musical circle, back to her roots—and ours.
Nocona’s roots are in Texas – songwriter, lead guitarist, and singer Chris Isom’s family are 6th generation Texans – but the band’s sun and stars rise over California. Nocona is a rock band with history who draw their roots from Country, Folk, Punk, Rock and psychedelia. They are known for taking the psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators and mashing it up with the Bakersfield sound—Roky and Buck; Love and the Burrito Brothers. At times the music finds the petulance and power of The Ramones and The Kinks, but it is tradition that comes out on stage every time Chris and Adrienne Isom bring their traveling circus to town.
Chris Isom spent his formative years in New York, where as a young punk he discovered artistic expression in a guitar. In Manhattan in the 2000’s, there was art and music around every corner. Chris found his calling, playing in Anti-folk bands, Art Punk bands, and every other thing he could find. He did time in Mooney Suzuki as a guitarist, and played and toured with Adam Green.
However, Chris’s family is Texas. Take from that what you will, but a hell of a lot of good music has come from boys and girls born and raised in that Republic. Chris’s mom tutored Buddy Holly’s bass player, Joe B Mauldin in High School. Both parents and grandparents hail from Lubbock. That Lubbock sound is not something you can shake from your bones, and a strong dose of Buddy and bluegrass steeped in modern rock comes through on NOCONA’s first album.
NOCONA is an old Tejas word. “Nocona is the area in Texas where my Mom’s family originally lived,” Chris explains. “It comes from the Comanche word for Wanderers or Travelers.”
Adrienne Cohen is from Los Angeles, born and raised an artist, and has always been a visual artist as well as a photographer – still a vocation today. But art is art and music called to her. While visiting a friend in New York, she met Chris, and he gave her a Gibson.
Chris and Adrienne joined a band, and the family was started. “We went to Nocona for Thanksgiving,” she says, “and there were all these cousins playing guitar. The songs were pouring out of them – Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Patsy Cline and a million songs I had never heard.” And that was it. It was on to California to bring it all together.
Chris and Adrienne played in an eclectic roots and folk and punk band in LA which ended its run in 2012 at Bonnaroo. Afterwards, Chris, Adrienne, began to cast about for a new plan.
They brought in longtime friend Justin Smith to play drums. He had played in bands his whole life – Old Californio, The Seeds – but when he joined with Chris and Adrienne, he had found his family. The mix of all these eclectic tastes – art and twang and punk and family – comes together to bring a distinct style that takes risks and delivers a sound unlike any other artist today. Their free spirit is evident in up-tempo tunes and infectious hooks with honesty, written by Chris Isom.
And where did it come from? Where did he find all these songs? Everywhere. “This is the first music I’ve written that’s free from a lot of the artistic hang ups that have stifled my writing in the past,” says Chris. “I’ve let go and just accepted the process, and sometimes that means exploring melodies and lyrics that used to be too personal for me to share with anyone. Other times, it means just shutting up and rocking out,” says Chris. The sound became complete and fully flushed out when Elan Glasser joined the band on harmonica, and all the parts have become one cohesive sound that fulfills the promise of all its individual assets.
NOCONA returned to Bonnaroo in 2013 after touring much of the year; they received critical reviews after playing Fillmore West and SF’s Independent opening up for Brokedown in Bakersfield. In the short time being together Nocona has played some of the biggest festivals in America – Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and Stagecoach – and have shared bills with ALO, Brokedown In Bakersfield and The Mother Hips.
“Brimstone,” a Nocona video directed by Jon Nowak, an award winning writer-director (Man & Machine; Sweet Corn) was featured on CBS News, and their video for “Beverly Hills Blues,” directed by David Schlussel, premiered on American Songwriter. In the past year four Nocona songs have been featured on television shows such as “Bones” and “Criminal Minds.”
“Toothless Junky” is a new video directed by Chris Strother at Zorthian Ranch in Altadena premiered July 2016. The video was shot amidst the famed props and large industrial sculptures and structures of the ranch and even features guest appearances by “Rama” the Lama.
Celebrating the release of their second full length album Long Gone Song on October 2nd, 2015, NOCONA has brought their irreverent, high energy stage show across the U.S and Canada.
They are currently working on their 3rd album due out in 2018.