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Rosie Flores

She has recorded with Pete Anderson, Junior Brown, Terry McBride and Greg Leisz; she’s performed with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen; and on her newest album, Speed of Sound, she breaks out songs by Buck Owens, Robbie Fulks and Johnny Cash. So, in other words, Rosie Flores has all the American-roots-music cred anyone could wish for—yet the Los Angeles Times places her smack dab in the center of a tradition of crossover greats, saying “Rosie Flores is the missing link between Brenda Lee and Bonnie Raitt.”

The description is easy and apt, as Flores’ swinging, dancehall rockabilly has all the sweet melodic charm of Lee’s poppiest work and all the smooth swagger of Raitt’s fieriest stuff. It’s a combination that many critics believe should already have earned Flores a significantly higher profile. Music Connection reports confidently: “There is no question whatsoever that once the masses—and not just country audiences, but rock and pop as well—see and hear her sing, Rosie’s career can go just about as far as she wants to take it.”

And Speed of Sound would seem to indicate that Flores has every intention of breaking out of the No Depression ghetto: In addition to the aforementioned tracks o’ country greatness, Flores has included “Somewhere Down the Line,” a track written by masterful pop tunesmith Marshall Crenshaw (for whom Flores contributed uncredited backing vocals when Crenshaw included the track on his own Life’s Too Short album), and “Don’t Know if I’m Comin’ or Goin’,” an obscure Billie Holiday tune. The album’s inclusive style—from straight-up rockabilly to tightly constructed pop to lovelorn jazz—is kept coherent by Flores’ simultaneously sweet and tangy vocals, of which Music Row writes gushingly, “This gal’s got it, that magical something-or-other in her voice that separates stars from also rans.”

Rosie Flores plays Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) tonight (Thursday); the Coal Palace Kings will open. Tickets for the 9 PM show are $10. For more information, call 432-6572.

A Sense of Wonder

Some people inspire simply by being who they are. They are not necessarily looking to be champions of causes, but because of who they are and what they do, they become voices. Such is the case with Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and zoologist whose best-selling book Silent Spring (1962) alerted the world to the dangers of chemical pesticides and led to her being dubbed “the patron saint of the environmental movement.”

A Sense of Wonder is the two-act, one-woman play about the life and works of Carson, written and performed by Kaiulani Lee (pictured). A lesser-known fact about Carson is that she was one of America’s great poets of the natural world. Lee was given access to all of her private writings, and has woven Carson’s words into this play.

Through conversations with Lee, Christopher Reed, director of education for the Regional Farm and Food Project—one of the cosponsors of the performance that will be staged tomorrow (Friday) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—has learned of an interesting twist to the play. “What typically happens is that this event, which is primarily a theatrical event, turns into something else, into kind of a town meeting,” Reed says. “I think it’s the idea that people are sort of desperate right now and they feel helpless in the face of what seems like overwhelming problems, and so the story of somebody who is by nature not an extrovert—not somebody who jumped out into the public arena, but who is very private, and who had such a tremendous impact because of her writing and through her profound connection to the natural world—that seems to connect with people. Kaiulani is saying that it’s really the power of the words of Rachel Carson, herself. There’s something there that galvanizes people in a particular way.”

Reed also feels that there is “something about the dynamic that Lee is getting at in these performances and what stimulates people to participate. This is more than just a theatrical event, it’s really a community event. Lee is kind of like a Pied Piper or sort of a Johnny Appleseed, going around the country stimulating discussions.”

Reed believes that Lee receives such enthusiastic reactions from audiences because she is “an activist by temperament. She wants to change the world, and yet she’s also a serious actress. She has that kind of discipline, and sometimes they can be mixed in a very clumsy fashion. But what she’s come upon is something that seems very effective because she’s true to her craft, and focusing on that, focusing on the words and then letting the politics somehow kind of emerge organically out of that experience.”

If this were just a political event, Reed says, it might not be as successful. “Things are possible under these circumstances that might not be possible if they were labeled as a ‘political meeting’ as such. I think that that’s something that this event gets. It gets at some sort of core issues that unify people more than divide them. People can make their own choices as to how they want to enact whatever it is they discover.”

A Sense of Wonder will be staged tomorrow (Friday, March 22) at 7:30 PM at RPI’s Chapel + Cultural Center (2125 Burdett Ave., Troy). Tickets, $20, are available at the Regional Farm and Food Project (148 Central Ave., Albany) or at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. Seniors and students can purchase discounted tickets at the door. For more information, call 427-6537.

The play also will be staged on Saturday (March 23) at the Hudson Middle School (Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson) at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $20 adults, $10 seniors, $5 students. There will be an afternoon workshop in Hudson in conjunction with the play. For more information, call 822-0334.

—Rebecca A. Morgan


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