There's only a handful of women who can claim to be the "Queen of Rock," and of that select few, Wanda Jackson might be the most royal. Her bona fides are undisputed: Wearing glamorous fringe dresses and sporting big hair, she electrified audiences with ramped-up rockabilly songs like "Mean, Mean Man," "Funnel of Love," and "Fujiyama Mama" in the mid-1950s and '60s.
She smoothly transitioned into mainstream country as the radio dials taste for "hillbilly" music waned, but her impact lived on in the bizarro hick jive of The Cramps and rockabilly revivalists in the '80s. Last year found her return to the spotlight with The Party Ain't Over, produced by Jack White. Covering tunes by her one-time-flame Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Amy Winehouse, the record sounds effortless, a grooving blend of Memphis soul, hammering rock 'n' roll, and elegant country shuffles.
White doesn't treat Jackson like an artist past her prime, pushing her trademark yelp in interesting directions. Fault the guy for looking like he escaped from a Tim Burton movie if you must (or at least fault him for that ICP collab), but White's approach works beautifully paired with Wanda's soulful grit.
Jackson chatted with me from her home, having just finished up an acupuncture session and some grocery shopping. We discussed Jack White's recent SNL performance, her thoughts on Amy Winehouse, and her time dating Elvis Presley.
Wanda Jackson is scheduled to perform Friday, March 9, at the Compound Grill.