Party pooper Dag nabbit! I’m about to write an album review that’s going to make me sound like a boring old purist. And in general, I hate boring old purists.
It’s like that joke told in music circles: How many bluegrass fans does it take to change a light bulb? The answer: Four — one to screw in the bulb, three to sit around and talk about how the old bulb was better. But this bulb — Wanda Jackson’s new Jack White-produced album, The Party Ain’t Over — has brought out my crotchety purist. ( And that’s a side of me I don’t like.)
Brief history lesson: For those unfamiliar with Jackson, she’s a rockabilly fireball from Oklahoma who started out as a country singer — discovered by the great Hank Thompson, no less. She wrote the country classic “Right or Wrong.” But she heard the call of the wild. Her highcharged “Let’s Have a Party,” originally recorded by Elvis Presley, was a rock ’n’ roll hit in the late ’ 50s. Others followed, including “Fujiyama Mama” (which actually became huge in Japan) and my favorite, “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad.”
In the mid-’60s, when rockabilly became unhip in the wake of the British Invasion (which was stupid, because The Beatles and other Brit rockers loved the ’billies), Jackson, like Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and others, turned back to the world of country. But with the rockabilly revival of the ’80s and ’ 90s, Jackson started rocking again. She appeared on Rosie Flores’ album Rockabilly Filly in 1995 (along with fellow early rockabilly gal Janis Martin). And — hot dog! — she’s been rocking ever since.
Back to the Party: White Stripe Jack White must have a thing for older women. In 2004, he produced an amazing “comeback” album, Van Lear Rose, for Loretta Lynn. I noted at the time in this column that some of the tracks had “about 10 times the drum sound of any previous Loretta effort” and described the song “Little Red Shoes” as “honky-tonk trip-hop.”
But Van Lear is a superior effort, because White stifled himself more on that album. On Party, he frequently goes overboard, doing something I previously assumed was impossible — overwhelming Wanda Jackson.