I am going to go a little rogue on this post. Instead of posting about one album, I am going to post about two that were made in the last 3 years. But do not worry, I have both of these exceptional albums on vinyl and that’s where I heard them first.
As one who frequents the record stores in the OKC area, I have seen a lot of hype and advertisement for Wanda Jackson. I am not sure how I had not heard of this legendary songstress before seeing her records in these stores, but I always love finding new favorites. Now that I have embarked on her material, I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.
Jackson’s career is wide and vast. She is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for early influence. She has sung rockabilly, country, rock, and gospel. She is the Queen of Rockabilly and many artists, including Adele, have cited her as an inspiration. Then, to top all the interesting facts I have learned, she is also a fellow Oklahoman.
Now in her mid-70s, Jackson has not slowed down. In 2010 Jackson worked with Jack White for her album The Party Ain’t Over. This album will probably run out of spins. Her vocals encompass wisdom, a vibrant youth, a little party, harshness, and delicateness. I am not sure there is an exact word to describe them.
This is an album of covers. The album opens with “Shakin’ All Over,” a number originally performed by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates in 1965. It’s a perfect beginning to this album, especially with it’s “shaky” sounds during the chorus. The song reminisces 1960s pop and rockabilly.
My next favorite is “Busted.” At first, it was hard for me to listen to a song about an older lady with a child being broke, but that’s when I saw the wisdom. Her voice expresses experience. It is both in the past, the present, and the future. At the end of side one, she goes into the Bob Dylan penned “Thunder on the Mountain.” This song possesses all qualities of a typical Dylan song, genius lyrics, storytelling, and unending interpretations. Jackson’s voice is so well suited for this song that it’s hard to not declare her the queen.
Side two holds all the same promises from side one. One of the best songs on the whole album is “You Know I’m No Good.” At first, I didn’t think it could be the Amy Winehouse version, but it was, and Jackson brought a new dimension to the song. You can see her sitting on a stool crooning this song from years of life experiences. The song, and better yet the whole album, comes from deep within her inner complexion.
These are just a few outlines of some of the songs, but in reality, each song is amazing.
Jackson then followed up with 2012’s, Unfinished Business. From the cover this album is unique. As I was reading the notes on the back of the album, I realized they were written by the famed author Stephen King. She truly touches all across every realm. This album opens up with “Tore Down,” a song about hitting rock bottom, yet her voice gives it hope. It’s one that every age group can relate to.
My favorite tune on this album is “Am I Even a Memory?” a duet with her producer Justin Townes Earle. This song does not have an age. It brings tears as you hear it. Jackson swoons over the lyrics, wondering if she meant anything to a past lover. Then Earle comes in and brings a very naive feel to the song. It’s pure musical genius. The song shows heartache at different times, decades apart. It’s the telling of a 40-year-old relationship, to a fresh one.
On side two there are many highlights, including “Two Hands” and “California Stars.” The first reaches back to her gospel years, declaring praises to the Father. “California Stars” is lyrically short, and professes that she would like to lay her weary bones on the California stars, yet I find that ironic because I just saw her releasing tour dates last week.
These two albums are really touching me in a poignant part of my life. I find comfort in the lyrics and vocals. I feel lifted by a party of unsurpassed emotion. Without getting to musically “ooey-gooey,” these albums are giving me strength at a tough time in my life to remember the world never stops spinning. I’ll survive.
All in all, I really hope to one day run into Miss Jackson at Wal-Mart or a local 7-11. I’d love to just thank her for her music and what it means to me and her contributions to the music world. I am sure she hears this every day, but it’s always nice to get things off your chest. I guess I am going to have to carry a sharpie and my album covers everywhere in my car just in case.
Jackson’s whole career is a party of rockabilly, salvation, and tremendous influence, but most parties don’t last nearly 60 years. I believe Wanda Jackson is going to continue to party for years to come and the invitations keep coming. This is one party you won’t find your self asleep on the couch, hung over the next morning, or begging for a ride home from.