Janis Martin

The Blanco Sessions

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Rosie Flores brought rockabilly legend Janis Martin in to sing on her 1995 album Rockabilly Filly, sparking a friendship that eventually led to Flores producing Martin in 2007. Janis passed away a few months after she cut 12 songs with Flores and co-producer Bobby Trimble, and those recordings remained shelved until Cow Island Music's 2012 release of The Blanco Sessions. The idea behind these sessions was to cut Martin the way she recorded back in the '50s, when she was one of a handful of pioneering female rockabilly singers. Flores and Trimble rounded up a bunch of Austin musicians, headed out to Blanco, and then recorded live with Martin, tearing through these songs in a mere two days. The Blanco Sessions does indeed feel alive: it jumps and swings, there's grit and dirt in the grooves, it has the spark and crackle of a live performance. Flores and Trimble evoke the spirit of Sun studios without desperately chasing a ghost; this has the ambience of a small room, so there's a bit of a noir-ish mystique to the sound of the album that's hard to resist. Conceptually, this is a throwback, but The Blanco Sessions is too lively to be categorized as nostalgia, and that's not just because the material is varied, with Dave Alvin's "Long White Cadillac" sitting alongside Jerry Lee Lewis' "It'll Be Me" and Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams." This is music that lives for the present, which means although Martin is singing in the style she did back in the '50s, it's from the perspective of a 67-year-old woman. And what a voice she had for a 67-year-old woman! She sounds full, strong, and rich, arguably more resonant than she did in the '50s, and she tears into these songs. There is a palpable joy to this music, coming from Martin and her band, and that's what makes The Blanco Sessions such a terrific coda to her career: this is not a self-conscious last testament, but rather a celebration of everything that made Janis Martin great.

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