The title of Wanda Jackson’s new album is Unfinished Business. Really, Wanda? If anyone can claim to have finished business, it’s you. Jackson has spent most her 75 years on the planet dedicated to expressing herself through music, specifically via a voice that mixes uncommon grit and grace, expressive in all the right ways.
A California girl by way of Oklahoma, Jackson was an aspiring Country crooner when Elvis convinced her to try this thing called Rock & Roll in the 1950s, a decision that yielded a string of hits like “Fujiyama Mama,” a sassy rave-up in which her voice seems charged by equal parts Japanese sake and dynamite. The Queen of Rockabilly was born.
Befitting a woman who has influenced and inspired musicians of multiple generations, Jackson recorded her first album in 16 years in 2003 with the help of admirers as varied as Elvis Costello and The Cramps. Jack White, ever the gentleman, then offered up his services for Jackson’s best effort in decades, 2011’s aptly titled The Party Ain’t Over, a rollicking genre-juggler that found the Queen in fine, feisty form.
Jackson jumped right back into the studio, this time with the help of Justin Townes Earle, dropping the aforementioned Unfinished Business in early October. Less musically diverse than The Party Ain’t Over, the new record (her 31st since 1956) is more concerned with mining Jackson’s vintage Country and Rockabilly roots more overtly; jaunty rockers like “Torn Down,” “Pushover” and “Two Hands” certainly fit the bill. But it’s the ballad “Am I Even a Memory” that really stings, Jackson’s voice emitting an authentic ache that could only be the product of a life well lived and still kicking.
WANDA JACKSON performs Saturday, Dec. 7 at Taft Theatre downtown. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.