One listen to this album and you’ll be checking out the rest of her catalog, just because it’s true: ‘The Party Ain’t Over’ by a long shot. Wanda Jackson is near 80 years old, but don’t let that stop you from discovering her talent. This album reveals her greatness. However, going back to her first decade in music will shatter any illusions you may have had about rock and roll being a man’s world. Wanda created the image of the woman who was born to rock, and people like Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar owe her their careers.
Jack White of The White Stripes can produce virtually anyone he wants to these days and ensure the result gets some kind of audience. So why record the widely-acknowledged ‘Queen of Rockabilly’? Is there anything left in her voice, in her dynamics, and in the trademark growl in her voice that made Elvis Presley more than a little crazy for her? Well, Jack White called her up and said simply “I want to produce you.”
The singer and producer teamed up to record a 45rpm single for White’s Third Man Records. The vinyl and iTunes release, a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” b/w “Shakin All Over” was a big success and the pair hatched a plan to record a full-length album.
‘The Party Ain’t Over’ was recorded in Nashville at White’s studio, where he brought together a formidable band, including himself, Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather/Raconteurs), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Patrick Keeler (Raconteurs), Ashley Monroe, Jackson Smith, and Karen Elson, to name a few, and hand picked the songs—11 tracks dating in origin from the early 1900s to 2007. The result: a retro modern collection of music that showcases Wanda, sounding as wickedly charismatic as ever.
Wanda demonstrates considerable ambition here with her choice of material, and for the most part she makes it work like no one else on the far side of 50 could make it work. Her voice is thinner than it used to be, but White pulls off a few production tricks to give it some body and some echo. She can still snarl, she can still moan, and she can still rock. Just take a listen to her version of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’.
And as for her take on the rock mainstay ‘Shakin’ All Over’, it’s full of dramatic pauses and her characteristic intensity that delivers just as much as other covers ever did, including that of The Guess Who, who made it a staple of Canadian music.
Then there’s her version of ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, where she teaches Dylan a thing or two about his own song. Not a new event when it comes to others interpreting Dylan, but it’s a surprise and a pleasure coming from Wanda. She’s far from just a rocker or a gospel singer; she has the pipes to sing absolutely anything she likes.
Not your average grandmother.
She was once judged too sexy to appear at The Grande Ole Opry, and while we don’t necessarily look for that in her current performances, she’s got something that very few singers manage to keep for any length of time. In a word, it’s attitude.
Brian Miller is the Publisher and co-Editor of Vivascene. A former record store owner and business writer, his interests range from vinyl records and high performance audio to design, photography, and succinct writing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org