I love Wanda Jackson.
But I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. I have nearly every album she has made. I discovered her music when I was going through a particularly rough patch in my life. Her music brought me through that storm and brings me unmeasurable joy and comfort. I confide in it.
Lately I have been listening to one of her 1970’s releases simply entitled Wanda Jackson Country! It’s a great album that showcases her spunk and candor. Each song is single worthy because most of these songs were singles. Jackson had been releasing some hard-hitting country tunes in the late 60’s, but none of them were featured on a full length album, thus, Country! was born.
Long before there were Miranda Lamberts and Kacey Musgraves, and even before Loretta Lynn, there was Wanda Jackson. She is the consummate goddess of country music. This album shows Jackson’s talent at its feistiest, yet it also portrays vulnerability and heartaches . She knows when to reel it out (“My Big Iron Skillet”) and when to bring it back in (“The Pain of It All”).
The album opens with “Skillet,” which is one of her biggest chart toppers. Through her passive aggressive vocals she explains to her man just how she’s going to love him if he doesn’t straighten up….with a big iron skillet. Something tells me she isn’t making eggs. No need for shotguns, Jackson just wanted to teach him a lesson, and she does just that through her beautiful smile and a little fringe.
This album also shows Jackson’s innovative and progressive artistry. By this time in her career she had already paved the way for female rock and country singers alike. She continually saw where music was going and didn’t mess around. This is obvious in both “Everything’s Leaving” and “Try a Little Tenderness.”
“Everything’s Leaving” sounds like something straight from the mid to late 1970’s. Her voice possesses raw vulnerability, yet confidence as she declares she’s ready to move on. “Try a Little Tenderness” has a guitar rift that could easily fit into modern-day country. She always saw the box, but she was more interested in the rectangle.
Later in the album she gives an answer to Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.” In Jackson’s version she recognizes all the major landmarks he drives by, but there’s one thing he doesn’t know as he is driving.
She simply does not care, because she had already found somebody else.
“By The Time You Get to Phoenix” turns this whole song upside down by changing just a few words. Her husband, Wendell Goodman, helped her find this lyrical mix. Not to mention this song was already written by fellow Okie, Jimmy Webb.
Jackson was building a legacy and you can hear that clearly with Country! Today she is hailed as one of the greats and rightfully so. She made the hard-headed woman an everyday staple in society and shattered the glass ceiling. Jackson could rock with the best of them and she had nerve, a first for a woman in music.
Although there is something Jackson just can’t get around. Her voice and attitude can fill theaters around the world, yet she only comes in at 5’2.” This is not a very intimidating height. Recently Wanda was asked why it was that so many female rockers are on the shorter side.
Her answer. “Well we can’t punch with our fists so we do it with our mouth.”
And that my friends is the essence of Wanda Jackson. Her voice is her revolver.