Music

Wanda Jackson: Heart Trouble

Charlotte Robinson

Wanda Jackson

Heart Trouble

Label: CMH
US Release Date: 2003-10-14
Amazon
iTunes

It's always heartening to witness legendary artists come back in a big way, and I don't mean in that Santana this-is-selling-well-but-really-it-sucks-and-why-is-Rob-Thomas-here kind of way. I'm thinking more of Johnny Cash with his back-to-basics American recordings, Dolly Parton's neo-bluegrass albums for Sugar Hill, and now original rockabilly hellcat Wanda Jackson with her first studio album in 15 years, Heart Trouble. With Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley gone and Cash's health waning, Jackson, at 65, is one of the few '50s country/rock fusionists remaining who still tours on a regular basis and sounds just about as good as she did back in the day. While not as widely known as many of her male contemporaries, Jackson recorded some wild rockabilly sides for Capitol in the late '50s and early '60s, including "Mean Mean Man", "Let's Have a Party", and "Fujiyama Mama", and scored both rockabilly and country hits in the U.S. and abroad. She has never stopped recording and performing, although she spent time in the '70s working primarily as a gospel artist. Jackson was coaxed back onto the rockabilly circuit in the mid-'80s, when the music experienced a resurgence in Europe, and since then, her old hits have been assembled for several compilations, including Ace's Queen of Rockabilly and Rhino's Rockin' in the Country. Jackson released a live album of country and rockabilly favorites, Live and Still Kickin', on DCN earlier this year.

Heart Trouble marks a triumphant return to the studio for Jackson, even though it uses the same gimmicks as lesser "comeback" albums: a prominent producer (John Wooler, whose credits include Willie Nelson and members of the Buena Vista Social Club), all-star guest musicians (Rosie Flores, Dave Alvin, Elvis Costello, the Cramps, Lee Rocker, Siedah Garrett, Smokey Hormel, etc.), and a safe mixture of old and new songs that is likely to offend no one. What makes Jackson's album work is the inspired pairings -- of singer and song, and of artist and collaborators. The younger artists Jackson works with on Heart Trouble aren't baby-faced chart-toppers chosen for their ability to draw publicity, but seasoned musicians whose sounds owe a debt to Jackson's pioneering work. The Cramps' Poison Ivy, a fierce rockabilly lady in her own right, makes the new recording of "Funnel of Love" sound like a dirty backwoods boogie with her trashy guitar sounds, while Blasters veteran Dave Alvin adds a more polished touch to the new country track "It Happens Every Time" and cover of Carl Perkins' "Rockabilly Fever". Rosie Flores, who invited Jackson to perform on her 1995 Rockabilly Filly album, contributes the girl-power anthem "Woman Walk out the Door" and adds her sweet vocals to it (but, alas, none of her trademark rockabilly guitar licks).

Flores did Jackson a great service by penning songs for her that match the quality of the classics, as did Allan Miller and the Mavericks' Jaime Hanna, who contributed the frisky, wordplay-ful original "Any Time You Wanna Fool Around". Jackson's choice of covers is right on the money, too, with "Cash on the Barrelhead" and Buck Owens's classic "Crying Time" (a duet with Elvis Costello) providing a perfect match for her classic country phrasing. The remakes of Jackson's old hits "Funnel of Love", "Mean Mean Man", "Riot in Cell Block No. 9", "Hard Headed Woman", and "Let's Have a Party", while fun, naturally don't match up to her older recordings of them, although the aforementioned Crampsified version of "Funnel" comes darn close. Still, to hear Jackson, now a grandmother, capture most of the snarls and hiccups she did in the old days is a real treat. Unlike many a smokin', drinkin' rocker, she's taken good care of her voice (are you listening Stevie Nicks?) and still has pretty impressive pipes. Thankfully, she's using them in the right way on this release, which is in every way a winner.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.