Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain’t Over

Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain’t Over

It’s impossible to talk about The Party Ain’t Over without talking about Van Lear Rose: In masterminding and producing an album by septuagenarian female rockabilly icon Wanda Jackson, Jack White invites comparisons to his 2004 collaboration with septuagenarian female country icon Loretta Lynn. What was an improbably miraculous combination the first time around has a slight whiff of gimmickry about it this time, perhaps because, in the tradition of most of Jackson’s discography, it features all covers—including an interesting-in-theory, weird-in-execution take on Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” which invites the question of how much emotional investment a 73-year-old born-again Christian has in a guy in a “skull T-shirt.” Most of the song choices are more on the mark: Rollicking classics like “Rip It Up” and “Shakin’ All Over” and an amped-up boogie-woogie cover of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder On The Mountain” pay homage to Jackson’s rockabilly roots, while country (“Busted”) and blues (“Blue Yodel #6”) are natural extensions of her sound.

Surprisingly, given his lo-fi reputation and the traditionally economical instrumentation of rockabilly, White takes a more-is-more approach toward production, gussying up the tracks with organ, horns, backup singers, and vocal distortion to augment Jackson’s kittenish growl, which remains reasonably intact, considering she has 50-plus years of shredding on her pipes. Sometimes the bells and whistles work wonders—the calypso trifle “Rum And Coca-Cola” could have been a chintzy outlier, but it succeeds due to its beefed-up production—but there’s also the occasional bum note, as in the cognitively dissonant funk arrangement that introduces “Dust On The Bible.” There are a lot of ideas at work on The Party Ain’t Over, and while some come off as too calculated, the album’s pervasive sense of fun and audaciousness usually wins out.

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