Rockabilly artists, playing a hybrid of rock’n’roll and country music, formed the vanguard of musicians who broke a new form of music to the nation in the mid ‘50s. Though known as rock and roll pioneers, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley really played rockabilly. In an industry dominated by men, some women managed to find success, and none more so than Wanda Jackson. Crowned “The Queen of Rockabilly,” she released a series of singles in the ’50s and 60’s still coveted by genre aficionados today.
Recently recruited by the inexhaustible Jack White for his Third Man Records label, she recorded her latest album, The Party Ain’t Over, with his assistance as producer and bandleader. The album starts with a Dap-Kings-style horn intro leading into White ripping into “Shakin’ All Over”. The band sounds tight but not over-rehearsed, and White summons hellfire with his solos. Jackson deftly handles the vocal on the next track, Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” and the band plays as the title demands.
White’s presence looms large over the album, from the warm, analog sound of his production – you can almost feel the glow of the tubes – to the high-energy performances and inspired arrangements. Jackson seems, at times, unable match the sound White creates. She sounds out of her element vocally on tracks like “Busted” and “Like A Baby.” She falls flat on Amy Winehouse‘s “You Know That I’m No Good,” struggling to hit the notes and stripping the song of its drama.
Perhaps the error is in the song selection – apparently White’s domain – because Jackson nails the vocals on some of the tracks. She kills on Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain”, never missing a beat. No easy task; many have tried to sing Dylan and failed miserably. If White had taken the limitations of Jackson’s voice more into account – she always did sound ‘unique’ – a better album would have resulted.
The Party Ain’t Over Tracklist:
01. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates cover)
02. Rip It Up (Little Richard cover)
03. Busted (Harlan Howard song most associated with Johnny Cash)
04. Rum and Coca Cola (The Andrews Sisters cover)
05. Thunder on the Mountain (Bob Dylan cover)
06. You Know That I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse cover)
07. Like a Baby (Elvis Presley cover)
08. Nervous Breakdown (Eddie Cochran cover)
09. Dust on the Bible (Gospel song most associated with Kitty Wells)
10. Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn cover)
11. Blue Yodel #6 (Jimmie Rodgers cover)
Check out more Wanda Jackson on her website.