The Blanco Sessions

Janis Martin

Cow Island Music, 2012

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Janis Martin, 1940-2007, proved during the mid to late 1950s that she could hang with the big boys. She was a rare female rock and roller in a world dominated by males. Her rockabilly style and on stage antics earned her the label of the female Elvis. While her career came to a halt during 1960 when she got pregnant, she returned during the 1980s and remained active until her death.

Enter Rosie Flores, born 1950. She is a country singer in the rockabilly vein and crossed paths with Martin when she sang on Flores’ album, Rockabilly Filly. That experience led Flores to set the goal of getting Martin into the studio to record an album. It took a decade but during April of 2007, she and her sidekick Bobby Trimble produced 11 tracks by Martin in Blanco, Texas in two days. Several months later, Martin was dead from cancer. Those sessions now form Martin’s last music will and testament. They were released September 18 as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Blanco Sessions.

Janis Martin has always had the perfect rockabilly voice. It is dynamic and just explodes out of the speakers. They kept the sound fairly simple, which keeps the focus on that voice. The album also has a nice mix of classic rockabilly songs and newer material from mostly the same genre.

The album begins with the old Ruth Brown rhythm & blues hit, “As Long As I’m Movin.’” Written by Jesse Stone under his pen name of Charles Calhoun, the name he also used to write “Shake, Rattle And Roll.” The song rocks, with Martin returning it to its rock roots.

The next two tracks found her in an all-out rock attack mode. “Wham Bam Jam” and The Blasters’ “Long White Cadillac” are perfect vehicles for her style and make you realize the tragedy of the fact that she will never perform them live.

“Walk Softly On This Heart of Mine” was originally a Bill Monroe bluegrass tune, but Martin modeled her take after the Kentucky Headhunters version. Kelly Willis provided the duet vocals. “Oh Lonesome Me” is a legendary country song that she reworks in a straight forward manner. The two best tracks are the Johnny and Dorsey Burnette song, “I Believe What You Say,” also recorded by Ricky Nelson, and the obscure southern beach music tune, “Roll Around Rockin’” which features some nice harmonica work by Walter Daniels.

Rockabilly has always occupied a niche in the modern world of American music but during the 1950s, it was an important element in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Janis Martin may have had only brief commercial success but she remains an important figure in the history of American rock music. While she may be gone, she has left behind one last testament to her talent.

Rating: A-

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© 2012 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Cow Island Music, and is used for informational purposes only.