Music News & Reviews

Album review: Wanda Jackson, 'The Party Ain't Over'

Album review

Wanda Jackson

The Party Ain't Over | 

Wanda Jackson is the one with the name on the disc. And it's the 73-year-old rockabilly queen whose delightfully defiant voice snarls, purrs and growls atop the music.

But The Party Ain't Over is most certainly a discography entry for Jack White, the Detroit expatriate who produces, performs and band-leads on the 11-song comeback album.

Serving up a dynamic energy and artful retro touch — and lending his name as a buzz-builder — White has given Jackson a shot at generation-bridging relevance, much as he did seven years ago in his Grammy- winning work with Loretta Lynn.

Recorded briskly in White's barn studio in Nashville, it's a fun, feel-good achievement, right down to the album cover's throwback design. Old staples from country-gospel (Dust on the Bible), rock 'n' roll (Shakin' All Over) and even calypso-pop (Rum and Coca-Cola) shake and shimmy. Organs swirl, horns blast and bass lines bob as Jackson's sandpaper vocals are dipped in old-school reverb.

Jackson sounds invigorated but coolly seasoned, owning the material without overplaying her hand. Even when the album tiptoes the line between brilliant and clunky — as on a rendition of Amy Winehouse's sultry You Know I'm No Good — Jackson's self-aware charm ultimately makes it work.

With his hand-picked band, White maintains a firm presence throughout, dropping a caterwauling lead guitar on the leadoff cut Shakin' All Over and a tidy but exhilarating solo on a cover of Bob Dylan's Thunder on the Mountain — a song choice suggested by Dylan himself, as Jackson writes in the liner notes.

Brian McCollum Detroit Free Press