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cd review

Janis Martin, ‘The Blanco Sessions’



Maybe the most remarkable thing about “The Blanco Sessions” is the possibility that it might never have been released. It’s the final album by Janis Martin, a pioneering female rock ’n’ roll artist who first emerged in the mid-1950s, right around the time Wanda Jackson was becoming a star.

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When Martin died of lung cancer in 2007, not long after she finished recording the album in Blanco, Texas, its future was in limbo. Rosie Flores, who co-produced it with her old friend Bobby Trimble, partly funded it with a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $16,500. It took until this year to find a home on a label, Northampton’s Cow Island Music.

For “The Blanco Sessions,” Flores and Trimble came up with 11 songs that were well-suited to Martin’s husky howl. From rockabilly (“Wham Bam Jam”) and country (“Sweet Dreams”) to boogie-woogie (“It’ll Be Me”) and more contemporary fare (a revelatory take on Dave Alvin’s “Long White Cadillac”), Martin sounds alive and hungry on these recordings.

(To get a sense of just how sensational Martin was in her ’50s prime, check out Bear Family’s “The Female Elvis” compilation, a title that refers to Martin’s nickname.)

“The Blanco Sessions” should have been Martin’s celebrated comeback record. Instead, it ended up being a graceful but potent swan song for a woman who never got her due.
Until now.

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