CD Review: Janis Martin – The Blanco Sessions (Cow Island, 2012)
If you’re going to cut a rock ‘n’ roll record – a real rock ‘n’ roll record – dropping eleven tracks in two days is the way to do it. Get everyone in a room, run ‘em through the songs once or twice and let it fly. It doesn’t need polish and pitch correction, it needs abandon and raw energy, and rockabilly singer Janis Martin had the latter two in spades. Recorded only a few months before she passed away, these sides find Martin’s voice deeper than her late ‘50s work as “the female Elvis,” and though she no longer had the tone of youth, she still had the fire. Longtime friend Rosie Flores (who’d coaxed Martin into the studio to sing on 1995’s Rockabilly Filly) pulled together a talented band of Austin-based musicians and produced this album of retro-rockabilly in 2007. It’s taken five years to get it released, but it was well worth the wait.
The sessions proved a fitting farewell as drummer Bobby Trimble and upright bassist Beau Sample goose the rhythms as all-star guitarist Dave Biller and pianist T. Jarrod Bonta sling themselves around the vocals. At 67, Martin was still connected to the verve of her teenage years, and prodded by the band – particularly Trimble’s backbeats – she really belts out the tunes. The material is a connoisseur’s collection of R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and country, reaching back to the early years, as well as touch on revival material, like Dave Alvin’s “Long White Cadillac.” Backing vocals from Flores and a guest duet with Kelly Willis (added in 2011) fill out a terrific final chapter in the career of a genuine rockabilly star.