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Album review: Wanda Jackson's 'The Party Ain’t Over'

January 24, 2011 |  8:13 pm

WANDA_JACKSON_240 The Oklahoma firebrand once dubbed “the female Elvis” for raucous rockabilly records such as “Let’s Have a Party” shows that a 73-year-old grandmother is still fully capable of ripping things up — especially when you throw in with someone as party-ready as producer Jack White.

Like his “Van Lear Rose” collaboration with Loretta Lynn, White surrounds one of his heroines with the kind of sizzling and muscular instrumental backing you’d expect from a brash rock upstart, replete with reverb-soaked vocals over blazing, electric guitars, bass, drums and horns.

Several of the song choices — Harlan Howard’s down-and-out “Busted,” Little Richard’s hit “Rip It Up,” Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over,” Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown” — are era-appropriate for Jackson. The real treat is in the way she and White tackle more contemporary stuff like Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain” (in place of the composer’s reference to lusting after Alicia Keys, Jackson sings of wondering “where Jerry Lee could be”) and Amy Winehouse’s spooky “You Know I’m No Good.”

Her thin, raspy voice retains plenty of sass six decades on, and White’s live-sounding band conjures the ambience of a gritty gig in some back alley bar for a rowdy crowd of mariachi bikers. Well done, Grandma Wanda.

—Randy Lewis

Wanda Jackson
“The Party Ain’t Over”
Third Man/Nonesuch
Three stars (Out of four)