Editors' pick

Wanda Jackson


Editorial Review

A star’s feisty return to form
By  Catherine P. Lewis
Friday, December 7, 2012

Wanda Jackson, the queen of rockabilly, doesn’t pull any punches with the title of her latest studio album, “Unfinished Business.” It’s likely a reference to the flashy production of her last album, 2011’s “The Party Ain’t Over,” a collaboration with the White Stripes’ Jack White. Here, Jackson takes a much different approach, working with Justin Townes Earle as her producer to create an album of country and rockabilly covers that’s true to her nearly six-decade career.

Jackson's voice has certainly aged, but her energy and sass haven't faded. She's as feisty as ever on the country song "The Graveyard Shift," written by Earle's father, Steve. She sounds equally spirited on Townes Van Zandt's stomper, "Two Hands," and the tell-off "Pushover," popularized by Etta James.

Even on the tender songs, Jackson keeps things up-tempo. She’s consumed with passion on “Old Weakness (Coming on Strong)” and sounds more assertive than introspective on the Justin Townes Earle cover “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome?” She truly slows down on the tear jerker “Am I Even a Memory?,” a duet with her producer that’s just a hair too mopey, and on the nearly whispered “California Stars” (a Woody Guthrie song from the Wilco and Billy Bragg “Mermaid Avenue” sessions), where the instrumental arrangement nearly overpowers her vocals. As the rest of the album shows, though, Jackson is at her best when she sings with gusto.