Monday, January 24, 2011



Considering Wanda Jackson was a rockbilly queen IN THE 1950'S, it's pretty remarkable this album got made at all. There aren't many of her contemporaries left. You can't credit producer Jack White for resurrecting her career though. She had a major disc out in 2003, and despite some gaps, has been at it all along. But she was never a big star like Jerry Lee or Little Richard, so White's participation is actually giving her the most exposure she's had since she dated Elvis. Skinny Elvis. Pre-army Elvis.

The trick here was to make Wanda sound strong and vital and tough, like rockabilly should be. So full credit to both Jack and Jackson. While her voice has never been that strong, and she had more billy than rock in her twang, they've picked a bunch of great tracks for her, mostly classics that haven't been over-covered. White also gives them a big, rockin' modern sound, lots of drums and shredding guitar, so it's rockbilly-on-studio steroids. It's classic Jackson material, including a scorching version of Shakin' All Over (The Who, Guess Who), plus some Jimmie Rodgers and Little Richard.

The biggest and best track is modern however. Jackson and White tear into Bob Dylan's 2006 song Thunder On The Mountain, and she rips through it at an even faster pace than Dylan. Of course, he was channelling old blues tracks to write it, so that fits her style and delivery. Another success is an Amy Whitehouse cover, You Know I'm No Good. Despite being 73, or maybe because of it, these songs sound tough and world-wise with Jackson's gravelly delivery. Bringing a kicking horn section to the party was a pretty bright move too. It's actually just as much an R'n'B album as rockabilly or anything else.

There's even an old country weeper for good measure, Dust On The Bible, a reminder that Jackson spent much of her post-50's career working the country charts, again like Jerry Lee and even Elvis. Given today's love and interest in roots music, it's no surprise that these early masters appeal to White and his fans. They could do it all, and still do.

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