Album Review: Unfinished Business by Wanda Jackson
Excellent, Based on 3 Critics
Slant Magazine - 80 Based on rating 4.0/5
“Queen of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson effectively rebooted her career with 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over, a collaboration with producer Jack White that gave Jackson’s commercial profile a decades-overdue boost. If there was a real knock against the album, it was that White’s show-offy aesthetic and fetish for authenticity too often overshadowed Jackson’s spirited performances. In producing Jackson’s follow-up, Unfinished Business, Justin Townes Earle doesn’t make those same mistakes.
On 2011's The Party Ain't Over, Jack White took it upon himself to remind the world of the greatness of Wanda Jackson, the first lady of rockabilly, by creating a great and gaudy musical spectacle in which the headlining artist often got lost in the shuffle of her own album. A year later, Jackson headed back into the studio, this time with Justin Townes Earle behind the controls, and the title Unfinished Business faintly suggests this album was meant as a corrective to the folly of her collaboration with White. It certainly suits Jackson and her gifts better than The Party Ain't Over; Earle has set Jackson up with a solid studio band (usually just guitar, bass, keys, drums, and sometimes pedal steel) and for the most part, they kept out of her way, giving her just enough space to show she still has the goods.
With a voice like a chainsaw swallowed by a little girl, Wanda Jackson’s brand of “shake ’em up, baby” is as kitten-with-a-whip as ever. The 75-year-old rockabilly queen’s sex is still on fire: taunting the boys with Steve Earle’s “Graveyard Shift,” the retro staccato bomp “Pushover” and blues-country compulsion “Old Weakness.” Lust isn’t something Jackson shies from. Embracing legends (Townes Van Zant), modern progressives (Greg Garing) and classic soul (Bobby Womack), Jackson sounds randy, ready and able to bounce whatever comes her way with full-tilt vigor.