LEWISTON – Rosie Flores treasures the moments when a musician she is watching inspires her. Nothing is worse, she says, than sitting in the audience of a dull and tedious performance.

“If you see a band who just plays the one same style music the whole set, and I don’t get taken on a journey, I get kind of bored,” Flores said earlier this week from her home near Nashville. “I don’t want to lose an audience to that. Bring them up. Bring them down. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make it interesting.”

Flores has been making interesting music since the 1970s, specializing in her rock- and blues-flavored country sounds. The rockabilly star returns to Maine next week to close out L/A Arts’ 2005 Cabaret Series.

Calling herself an outsider in her adopted hometown of Nashville, Flores flows comfortably with fellow alt-country stars like Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle and k.d. Lang. She refuses to be pigeonholed into a neat box that the music industry adores.

That is why her career with major label Warner Bros. lasted one album in the late 1980s. Her recordings were too broad for how the industry defined country music at the time.

“If I try to get in with the industry and the major labels, it doesn’t feel right to me,” Flores said. “I feel I’m out of my elements. I’m not happy having to play a game or have guidelines. I like to make it up as I go along.”

Flores was born in San Antonio, but moved to southern California at age 12. She arrived just as that region’s surf music craze took off with the Beach Boys, Ventures and Dick Dale. Pulled in by that culture, Flores said she naturally became enamored with the guitar.

At the same time, her next-door neighbor introduced her to country music.

“It was the first time I ever heard country radio,” said Flores. “I couldn’t help but be around it because whenever I went to her house, it would be on. Little by little, it crept into my subconscious.”

Flores performed with various bands in California, blending rock and country into a sound some called punk-cowboy. She was part of the first wave of young artists to arrive in Nashville. Her Warner Bros. debut in 1987 received much praise, but the industry failed to promote her unique style.

She settled in Austin for awhile and flourished in that city’s robust scene. She returned to Nashville six years ago and is more accepted now in country music’s wider framework.

Her latest album, “Single Rose” was recorded live last year in Nashville’s Douglas Corner Cafe.

Backed by a stand-up bass player and drummer, Flores promises to take her Lewiston audience on a musical journey – sharing stories, laughter and perhaps some tears.

“There’s a certain sparkle that I look for in the eyes when I finish doing a show,” she said. “I want to make people feel like they had a good experience.”


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