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Up until this point Saving Country Music’s “10 Badass Moments” series has only featured men. But can women be badasses as well? Well if you look at the life and times of one Wanda Jackson, the answer would most certainly be “yes”. Whether it’s from a country or a rock & roll perspective, Wanda Jackson had a significant impact on both, and certainly deserves to be considered a badass right beside her male counterparts. Here’s 10 reasons why….
- 10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments
- 10 Badass Hank3 Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
- 10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
- 10 Badass George Jones Moments
- 10 Badass Billy Joe Shaver Moments
1. Paying Dues in Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys
Wanda wasn’t a boy, but while she was still attending Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City, Hank Thompson heard Wanda performing on her own radio show she had on KLPR-AM. She was awarded the show for winning a talent contest. Hank Thompson was so impressed, he recruited her to sing in his Brazos Valley Boys band. Eventually she went on to record a duet with Billy Gray—the bandleader of the Brazos Valley Boys—called “You Can’t Have My Love”. The song was released in 1954, and went to #8 on the country chart. Wanda Jackson was well on her way to making a wide impact on the music world.
2. Proving The Boys At Capitol Records Wrong
After the success of her duet with Brazos Valley Boys’ bandleader Billy Gray on the song “You Can’t Handle My Love” on Capitol Records, Wanda asked the company if she could sign with them as a solo artist. That’s when Capitol producer Ken Nelson uttered the immortal words, “Girls don’t sell records,” emboldening Wanda Jackson even more to make a career in music. Rival label Decca Records was happy to have Wanda, and she went on to prove old Ken Nelson wrong many times over. After Wanda started having success, Capitol eventually did sign her.
Fighting the male establishment became a theme of both Wanda’s music and career, and her feistiness and tenacity finally won her much respect from many of her male counterparts, including a very big one . . .
3. Breaking Up with Elvis
After signing with Decca Records, Wanda Jackson went on tour opening for Elvis Presley. This is when Wanda became the female nexus between the country and rock & roll worlds. Elvis encouraged Wanda to develop a rockabilly sound and to push herself creatively, and she did. Wanda began writing her own songs and putting her own personal stamp on the music world. And then their professional relationship went further. “It wasn’t traditional dating,” Wanda explains. “My dad liked Elvis a lot, and it was okay with him that I could hang out a little bit with Elvis after a show.” Eventually Elvis asked Wanda Jackson to “be his girl” in early 1956, but Wanda, always the strong, spirited, independent woman, said no. When asked if Elvis was a good kisser, Wanda once said, “No, I was the good kisser.”
4. Being The First Woman To Record Rock & Roll
Wanda Jackson, despite being known as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, openly criticizes them term “rockabilly” herself. Her website to this day proclaims her more simply the “Queen of Rock.” What’s for sure is that Wanda was one of the very first, if not the first females to knowingly record rock & roll songs. Though other females like Rose Maddox certainly can claim an early stake in the rock game, Wanda, working right beside “The King” Elvis Presley, was knowingly mixing the emerging styles of country and rock & roll, many times on the same record, and sometimes in the same song.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the song “I Gotta Know.” The song starts off sounding like a syrupy, slow country ballad, and then shockingly launches into a boogie woogie beat, and then reverts back. “I Gotta Know” is Wanda proving her prowess with both styles. The song also shows off Wanda’s strong womanhood with which she approached many of her songs.
5. The Growl
According to Wanda, her father and manager Tom Jackson told her during an early studio session, “Wanda, rear back and sing that thing like it should be done!” As soon as Wanda did this “the growl was just there.” It has gone on to become Wanda’s signature, and just as significant and influential of a contribution to both country and rock & roll music as anything else Wanda is known for.
6. Having A #1 Hit …. in JAPAN!
Wanda Jackson recorded “Fujiyama Mama” on September 17th, 1957, and released it to the public to some concerns about the insensitivity of the lyrical content. A mere 10 years removed from the controversial nuclear bombings of Japan by the United States, and here Wanda was using the incident as hyperbole about an angry woman, with sexual undertones nonetheless. So what happened with the single? It blew up … in Japan! Jackson became an international superstar from the song, and briefly toured Japan in 1959.
“Fujiyama Mama” wasn’t Wanda’s only dalliance in international success. She also released a handful of singles in Germany between 1965 and 1970, including songs like “Komm Heim, Mein Wandersmann” and “Wer an Das Meer Sein Herz Verliert”. Her courting of international markets would prove to be savvy, as later in her career and even today Wanda Jackson enjoys great international recognition and acclaim.
7. Growing Old Gracefully
So many female music performers and actors feel the pressure to stay forever young, succumbing to procedure after procedure until their visage is almost a caricature of their former selves. But not Wanda. She’s grown old with gracefulness and dignity, never trying to be younger than she is, or trying to be anything she’s not.
8. Recording Albums with Jack White and Justin Townes Earle
When Wanda wanted to make a comeback record, she took a play out of Loretta Lynn’s playbook and recruited rocker and world-class record producer Jack White to work with. The result was 2011′s The Party Ain’t Over which presented Wanda Jackson to a brand new generation of fans and revived her career domestically and abroad.
When Wanda wanted to keep the party going, she worked with another young, rising star in Justin Townes Earle in 2012′s Unfinished Business. Where Jack White went in a more flashy direction, Justin Townes Earle took a more songwriter, tasteful approach. Both albums were critical successes, and stand right beside all of Wanda’s other works as career accomplishments.
9. Recording Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”
When Jack White was producing Wanda Jackson’s comeback album The Party Ain’t Over, he needed a bullet, and decided that Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” would be a good fit. Wanda initially refused to record the song because of some questionable content in the lyrics, so Jack White rewrote some parts, and wala, The Queen of Rock was covering Amy Winehouse, adding her custom growl to the popular composition.
The Party Ain’t Over was released in January of 2011. Less than six months later, Amy Winehouse died of a drug overdose. Wanda continued to perform the song in tribute to the troubled British songwriter.
10. Being Herself, Always
As a pretty young woman with a unique voice, surrounded by all the temptations of the music world and many different directions she could go, Wanda Jackson simply followed her heart, and stayed true to herself throughout her career, and does up to today. She loved country music and rock & roll equally, and shared her time with both, approaching both genres with respect, appreciation, and knowledge for their roots, knowing where to keep the line between the two. Though she was always sexy, she never sexualized herself simply as image to make up for musical shortcomings. And though she did her time in L.A. and Nashville, Wanda never truly left her roots in good old Oklahoma, and still lives there today.
BONUS 11. Never Losing Her Cool
For years the top tier of country music coverage was simply a cloistered and closed-minded exercise in recycling the same already-established names in puff pieces proselytizing the virtues of pop country and very little else. As independent music as a whole continues to gain market share from the mainstream, it’s becoming more and more pertinent for big news outlets to pay attention to the rising tide of independent music, and the renewed interest in legends of the genre. CMT created CMT Edge to cover Americana, bluegrass, legacy artists and other independent acts, and other outlets have stepped up their independent coverage in one capacity or another. But that one mainstream outlet that really gives equal footing to artists regardless if they have the big money of a major label behind them has remained elusive…at least in country music’s traditional stomping ground of the United States.
Once again the Europeans out class their cross Atlantic counterparts with the newly-launched Country Music Magazine from Team Rock—the same people who’ve brought the UK the long-running and widely-distributed Classic Rock Magazine. Despite the generic name, this magazine is anything but, with 132 extra wide (8 ½” x 12″) glossy full-color photo-showcasing pages, accompanied by a free, 15-track CD with music from the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Guy Clark.
Amongst its content is a full 60 pages of in-depth features on folks like Johnny Cash, Tony Joe White, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, steel guitar player Buddy Emmons, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, LeAnn Rimes, Steve Martin, Wanda Jackson, and many more. There’s also a rundown of “69 Must-Have Classics of Modern Country” and smaller features on Fifth on the Floor, Austin Lucas, Jack Clement, and others. The last 30 pages of the mag are dedicated to dozens of album reviews and a buyers guide of releases and re-issues complete with ratings from a wide swath of the country music world. Even the few, unobtrusive ads in the mag are for cool country folks like Daniel Romano and Laura Cantrell. Both the current and archival photos for the respective artists are astounding in their full page context.
When I first heard about this magazine and saw the lineup of who they were planning to feature, I was interested to see how it would all play out once it went to print. It sounded almost too good to be true, but Country Music Magazine seems to be determined to do right by the country music name.
And to be fair, the mag doesn’t ignore bigger, mainstream artists. There’s album reviews for Florida-Georgia Line, Blake Shelton, and Brad Paisley because they’re part of the country music community too. But the reviews for these big names are right beside reviews for people like Bill Kirchen and Patty Griffin. And it can’t be stressed enough how much content is here. It’s a magazine you can’t put down, but seems to take forever to get through because past every page turn is something you want to read, and read again.
About the only base that maybe wasn’t thoroughly touched was the Texas/Red Dirt side of country, but from mainstream to Americana and independent country, they have it all covered. Another concern would be that they set the bar so high with this inaugural issue, it will be interesting to see if they can match it at quarterly intervals. Nonetheless, this is the country music magazine we’ve all be waiting for.
Two guns up!
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Country Music Magazine is edited by Ed Mitchell, with contributions by Grant Moon, Emma Wicks, and Max Bell. Comes shipped in an outer protective cover that includes the magazine and free CD. The magazine costs £7.99 in the UK, £9.99, which is roughly $15.00 US to have it shipped to the States.
If you’ve been wishing for a print magazine that would cover cool up-and-coming country artists right beside the big names, and not just focus on the here and now but take the time to look back on the past greats of the genre, well you may just have received your wish. From the same people that have been publishing England’s high quality and highly-circulated Classic Rock Magazine since 1998 comes Country Music Magazine presented by Classic Rock, with the inaugural issue being released September 11th.
The first issue features a cover story on Johnny Cash and how he fought back from depression and drug addiction to release his two greatest albums At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin. The issues also includes features on Leann Rimes and her new album Spitfire, Kacey Musgraves, Guy Clark, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Wanda Jackson, Tony Joe White, and an exclusive interview with pedal steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons.
And best of all, right beside these big names are features on Sturgill Simpson, Austin Lucas, Fifth on the Floor, UK’s My Darling Clementine, Case Hardin, Carrie Rodriguez, and more. UK-based or not, its hard to look at this first issue and accuse them of not knowing their way around country music. The 132-page magazine will also feature a free 15-song CD of the artists it included in each issue.
“The magazine will feature the best writers, photographers, and will document Americana and roots music at its coolest,” says Country Music Magazine Editor, Ed Mitchell. “If it twangs, whines or breaks your heart, it’ll be in the pages of Country Music Magazine”.
There will also be a two hour, weekly radio show that will launch on Sunday September 8th on TeamRock Digital One radio. Hosted by Rob Hughes, who has a wealth of experience presenting country on 6Music as well as contributing to the magazine’s Johnny Cash cover story. The shows content will largely reflect the content of the magazine, playing the songs by the artists interviewed each quarter.
Once again, leave it to European-based organization to take up the slack where the American market has lapsed in covering its own indigenous art forms. As Country Music Magazine is proving, the appeal for true country music from the past and present is international, and deserves more attention. And who knows, you may see some contributions from some of your favorite country music writers you’re already familiar with .
Country Music Magazine can be pre-ordered now for £9.99 (roughly $15 US). Stay tuned for more info about US availability and distribution.
Let’s be honest. The chances of Wanda Jackson putting out some groundbreaking, landmark album these days are slim. Her immeasurable influence spanning country, rockabilly, and rock and roll is undeniable. But at age 75, you’re not looking for something sensational, you’re just looking for something solid, something that rekindles the memories of her past magic and imparts some new memories along the way.
Same thing goes for these celebrity producerships that seem to be all the rage in music these days. You just want them to work. Hey, I’m one of the first to fall for them hook, line, and sinker. I see a high-caliber producer name attached to some upcoming project and my music pants start going crazy, and certainly that was the case when I heard Justin Townes Earle was producing Wanda’s Unfinished Business. But really, what is the success rate of these celebrity producer collaborations? Are big name musicians really qualified to be producers, or is this all marketing?
There’s been some hits with this formula, like Jack White’s work with Loretta Lynn on the album Van Lear Rose. And there’s been some, well, not hits, like when Jack White hooked up with Wanda on her last album The Party Ain’t Over. The result was decent, but a little too much Jack and not enough Wanda.
A good producer’s job is not to be noticed, but to get you to notice the talents of whoever they’re producing. And that’s what Justin Townes Earle does in Unfinished Business. He gets the hell out of the way and let’s Wanda Jackson do her thing, while still lending a creative and influential hand.
Wanda Jackson’s greatest asset is her voice. Like a brand new switchblade polished with Windex, it cuts with class. At 75, her voice is probably going to show some age and we can accept that, if not even enjoy its character in patches. Possibly the reason Jack White felt inclined to bring in bellowing horn sections on the last album was possibly to bolster, or bury Wanda’s voice from fear of it showing its age. But what Jack’s approach did was suffocate what makes Wanda special.
With Unfinished Business, instead of setting up a one band, one formula approach for most of the album, Justin Townes Earle approached each song individually, and this is where this album shines: the customized treatment for each track that creates a brilliant contrast of moods. Where Jack White seemed wanting to make a statement through Wanda, Justin Townes Earle just wanted to have fun.
If Wanda Jackson’s greatest asset is her voice, her second is her coolness and style. Earle was wise to pick up on that and utilize that in composition, like in the first track “Tore Down”. Bringing in backup singers for Wanda’s version of the Etta James number “Pushover” was a brilliant call that also called on Wanda Jackson’s cool factor.
Great, great song selection on this album. “It’s All Over Now”, a song first cut by the Valentino’s that then went on to be The Rolling Stone’s first #1 hit in 1964 was an excellent selection for the track list. Lower Broadway revivalist Greg Garing’s “Down Past The Bottom” may be the best track on the album.
Justin Townes Earle may have made an effort to make sure this album wasn’t all about him, but he’s far from sitting in the background. Wanda’s hard country version of Justin’s “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome” is another standout track. And Earle shares the mic with Wanda in the somber duet, “Am I Even A Memory?”, where once again he does a great job playing the part instead of trying to stamp his signature on the song.
I’m not sure of the epicness yearned for in the ending track “California Stars” is captured, but the song is solid nonetheless. And I seem to always want to hear more of the Wanda rockabilly growl than what I get on her albums. But Unfinished Business touches on a tremendous amount of textures, styles, and moods, including lots of country and steel guitar, which is only appropriate because of Wanda’s wild, varying influence on American music. And most importantly, Unfinished Business let’s Wanda be Wanda.
As far as I’m concerned, Wanda Jackson has no “unfinished business” to attend to. She’s given her heart and soul to the music, and the music is better off because of it. She’s got nothing to prove, but she proves it anyway in Unfinished Business. And so does Justin Townes Earle.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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Level with me folks. What do you think the chances are for a two bit blogger and a dame like Lindi Ortega hooking up? Do you think she’ll be impressed by my unique pageview stats, or my ’98 Toyota pickup truck with whiskey dents and a faded Reinstate Hank sticker? Cause I’ve got it bad my friends. I’m gnawing on my palm like Squiggy. Or was that Leonard?
Not since Rachel Brooke have we seen such a wicked combination of beauty, style, singing, and song craft. Lindi Ortega has it all. I’ve seen a lot of chatter out there in the music world about Lindi lately, and folks wanting to slate her as alt-country or Americana. Well those people are going to have to fight me for her, because I’m planting a flag and claiming her for pure, true, honest-to-God country. Her talent is just too good to relegate to ill-defined sub-genres. Lindi Ortega is just what country music needs.
From Toronto, Ontario, Lindi Ortega evokes the ghost of Patsy Cline and the cool factor of Wanda Jackson. Like with Elizabeth Cook, you almost can’t believe that an artist whose beauty is so stark would find appeal in the lower rungs of the music world; that they would settle on being real instead of real famous. But don’t let the beauty fool you, Lindi is the real deal, with a natural desire to revitalize authentic country vibes and a natural vibrato to her voice that stokes the soul. “Indie Lindi” is what she was know by for 10 years or so in and around Toronto, putting out independent releases before making waves with her Drifter EP released on a subsidiary of Interscope Records in 2008, and now storming the world with Cigarettes & Truckstops.
Cigarettes & Truckstops is a succulent endeavor into the very fabric of country music, dusting off country’s roots, adding a little rockabilly, and re-emerging with them in a sexy and relevant candor, talking care free about drugs and danger, and not doing anything to be cool but being herself. Lindi Ortega doesn’t need to paint flames on her chest, she’s hot enough.
Good luck poking holes in what Lindi is throwing down here. The taste that Cigarettes and & Truckstops is constructed with is impenetrable. It all starts with Lindi’s songwriting, brought to life with her voice that seems so at home in the high register that commonly is a stretch for even the most-skilled of female singers. The production is laid back, giving Lindi’s voice and words tremendous space to breathe while the vocal track is buffered with a tasteful dollop of vintage reverb, allowing it to reach for the stratosphere and stick to your bones.
You barely even recognize the music your first few times through, even though the guitar is loud, sweaty, and superb throughout. This is good, because your attention is so trained on Lindi and the magic she is throwing down, you have to take a step back to recognize that the music is just as face melting and ripe for compliment. Even when the production turns more progressive, like on the ending of “High”, it’s always perfect to the mood and style. Mad props for Lindi and producer Colin Linden for making this album right.
But it all comes back to the songwriting for me. Lindi endows her songs with the wit and appealing sense of perspective that marks all great country music. And though I may joke about being possessive in calling her country, I certainly can see how folks from a very wide swath of the roots world could get into her music. From the underground to Americana, if you don’t like her music, you’re not listening to it right.
Oh, and another thing, this album towards the end turns deliciously dark. From burying bodies in “Murder of Crows”, to the drug-induced “High” and the pleadings of “Use Me”, this album gets raw without sacrificing its realness. As implied by the title, Cigarettes & Truckstops is a journey, and carries with it the real, believable stories rewarded to Lindi by real living.
I don’t know ladies and gentlemen, we might be looking at one of the best albums put out all year here.
Two guns up!
(and 5 points if you picked up on the Laverne & Shirley reference)
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Rosie Flores is rockabilly royalty. You can draw a direct line from Rose Maddox, to Wanda Jackson, to Rosie Flores, and she takes her role as the “Rockabilly Filly” seriously, helping to revitalize the careers of both Wanda and the “Female Elvis” Janis Martin when she invited them onto her smash 1995 release Rockabilly Filly.
A Member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, she was dubbed the “female Dwight Yoakam” when she emerged out of the new traditionalist scene in Southern California. But enough comparisons with the boys, Rosie is a world beater all her own, recently making headlines by raising money and posthumously releasing Janis Martin’s The Blanco Sessions, as well as creating and performing a multimedia presentation for Janis at the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
And as if Rosie wasn’t busy enough, here she is releasing her 11th full length album Working Girl’s Guitar through Bloodshot Records on October 16th. This raucous and rebellious collection of songs features Rosie for the first time handling all the solo guitar licks herself and writing some new original tunes along the way. Touching on rockabilly, surf, blues, and country, Rosie slays all comers and proves why she remains one of the most entertaining, energetic, and influential female guitar players around today.
Rosie Flores, Working Girl’s Guitar by BSHQ
In an unexpected nugget of news that has my music pants going crazy, The Rolling Stone has just announced that Wanda Jackson will be releasing a new album entitled Unfinished Business on October 9th, and that the album’s producer will be none other than Saving Country Music’s 2011 Artist of the Year Justin Townes Earle.
“I’ve had a wonderful time working with Wanda and creating this new record,” Earle says in the video below. “Hopefully everyboy’s going to enjoy it…well I know they will. They don’t really have a choice, do they?”
This will be Wanda Jackson’s 31st studio album and will be released on Sugar Hill Records. Wanda will turn 75 two weeks after Unfinished Business will be released, yet she’s showing no signs of slowing down. She released The Party Ain’t Over in early 2011 with another famous artist/producer in Jack White.
“From day one I really liked Justin’s idea to take me back to my roots and make a record of country, blues, and rockabilly songs,” Jackson told Rolling Stone. “The band was extra tight and great to work with during the whole process. The record just sounds terrific and I’m hoping that my fans enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.”
The Muddy Roots Festival in Cookeville, TN this upcoming September 3rd & 4th is just over two months away, and in preparation they are ramping up plans to have a full-on documentary of the event created by Judd Films. To help fund the film, Jason at Muddy Roots has set up a Kickstarter campaign, with the hopes of raising $6,500 for the film’s expenses.
Festival founder Galaz has recruited Blake Judd of JuddFilms to produce and direct a documentary project about the music, musicians, and the fans. Through live music, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage, the film will bring much-deserved exposure to a growing scene and showcase the sincerity and dedication of its musicians and supporters.
Galaz said, “I knew that Blake would be perfect for this. He has worked with a lot of the artists in the scene and understands what we are looking for. This festival is something, when documented, deserves the eye of people who understand where these bands and fans are coming from and what it means. All the funds raised go into production and Blake and his crew are willing put their efforts behind this for the cause. I’m excited that he was willing to work on this with us.”
“I can’t wait to get started on the project, “says Judd, “The Muddy Roots Festival is becoming the Bonnaroo or the Woodstock for this scene. No one is going to get rich from this, but it’s more of a place that all the bands and fans alike can come together, play music, hang out, and have a great time. It’s a lifestyle and that’s what we’re out to document and celebrate. This is a passion for these people and for us alike.”
The Muddy Roots Festival will have over 60 bands performing, including headliners Wanda Jackson, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, and Country Music Hall of Famer Don Maddox of The Maddox Brothers & Rose. (see full lineup below)
Well, we’ve just about reached the half way point of 2011, and let me level with you folks, so far this has been a down year for music. Yes, there’s been a few good projects and some surprises as well, but generally speaking it’s been pretty bleak compared to 2010, which was such a bumper year for music. Last year I thought my head was about to explode from all the great music. Well, we’re paying for it this year.
There are some interesting projects coming up, a new Hellbound Glory album, new William Elliot Whitmore, Scott H Biram, Gillian Welch, and Pokey LaFarge, and a new country album from the always polarizing Shooter Jennings that will be fun to see how it is is received, but below is a list of my top 2011 albums so far. Please note, there are a few albums already out that I have not reviewed yet. This will only include previously-reviewed albums.
Austin Lucas – A New Home, in the Old World (read review)
If you’re looking for a top-dog, and one with twang, then this album might be the winner. Excellent songwriting, beautiful singing and harmonies, a well-produced album with top-notch instrumentation and performances, and a good variety in the songs. Something about this album I’ve noticed is that while I gravitated away for the more rock-style songs on the album, many single these out as the best tracks. That means this album has a little something for everyone. Austin Lucas will be on Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown tour this summer, and he deserves this honor after putting out such a superb album.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Unentitled (read review)
This album is not for everyone. Being more in the Gothic country/Americana mold, it contains some natural barriers from being a true country album of the year. But as far as the project that so far has spent the most time in the listening rotation and shows the greatest amount of creativity and originality, this is the one. Being their dark, twisted take on pop music, the album has a strange addictive and accessible quality to it as well.
Lone Wolf – Lone Wolf OMB (read review)
If you’re looking for the album that strips it all down and is simply an earth quaking, booty shaking primal experience, this is it. You may not think that one man and a banjo could be that engaging, but by the end of Lone Wolf OMB, you will be a believer.
Rachel Brooke – Down in the Barnyard (read review)
The best album so far with a conceptualized approach and a cohesive theme that makes the collection of songs better than the sum of their parts. Well-crafted songs and lyrics are custom-fit with Rachel’s magnanimous voice in a very wise approach. And this is also the premier neo-traditionalist offering so far, going all the way back to modes of The Carter Family. If you’re looking for an album to get rowdy to, keep moving. If you’re looking for an album to be listened to and not just heard, then listen to this one.
Little Lisa Dixie – Little Lisa Dixie (read review)
An excellent combination of smart and fun, Little Lisa Dixie’s premier, self-titled release is cast in the mold of the classic underground country album: a homage to the traditional approach to country music with a “devil, gun, and whiskey” edge. Little Lisa also throws a rockabilly vibe in on a few songs to keep things spicy.
Jimbo Mathus – Confederate Buddha (read review)
I have a sense that I’m going to have to drag people kicking and screaming to this album, but that’s OK, I like a challenge. Jimbo Mathus was keeping the roots alive and combining country, blues, and rock when many of the other folks in this list were still in Jr. High. Jimbo “keeps it real” in the truest sense of the phrase, is an American original, and this is a very solid, enjoyable album.
Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now (read review)
Another dark horse that may have the best songwriting from a lyrical standpoint in the whole lot and performed with a gorgeous voice. This album may be a little more placid than what folks are used to me recommending, but it is worth giving more than one chance.
What are your top albums so far? What good albums have I’ve missed? Which albums are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2011?
That’s right my friends, royalty will be gracing the Muddy Roots Festival stage in Cookeville TN on September 3rd & 4th. And when I say “gracing”, I don’t know that there has ever been another to rock with such grace than the Queen of Rockabilly herself, the lovely and talented Wanda Jackson.
Few artists can still call themselves relevant and engaging over 50 years after their career started. Even fewer can say they once dumped the King of Rock n’ Roll. Wanda Jackson can say whatever the hell she wants to say, because there’s has never been anybody bigger or better in the rockabilly world in my opinion. Folks making their way to Cookeville should not just feel excited that Wanda will be there, they should feel honored to be attending an event with her as the headliner.
But as excited as I am to have a Rockabilly legend in attendance, I might be even more excited that Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers will be there as well. I cannot name you another band above the Shack Shakers that I would rather see live. Even if you can’t make it to Muddy Roots, they should be on anybody’s top 5 bucket list to see before you kick it. When company like Robert Plant and Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedy’s is singing your praises, you know it’s something special. And to make it even better, frontman JD Wilke’s stripped-down mountain music project The Dirt Daubers will be playing a set as well.
And while were speaking of legends, Rockabilly Hall of Fame legends the Art Adams Band has been added to the lineup as well, and so have the high energy Harmed Brothers from Oregon, and the lovely Sabina Kelley as the pin-up pageant judge, “Captain” Sean Wheeler of Throwrag (and occasional Joe Buck Yourself collaborator), Zander Schloss of legendary punk band The Circle Jerks, and the Davy Jay Sparrow & His Well-Known Famous Drovers!
Despite the dissolution of The White Stripes and the Queen of Rockabilly cresting into her 70′s, this new album leaves little doubt that The Party Ain’t Over, and neither are the careers of Wanda Jackson and Jack White.
One thing is for sure, whatever criticism one can come up with for this album, it is difficult to say that it lacks vision, or scope, or that it needs fleshing out. With a full accoutrement of musicians, a horn section, pedal steel and keys, various vintage effects, Jack White’s heavy-handed blazing guitar, all captured on the warmth of 2-inch tape, there were few if any stones left unturned. Jack White, who produced this monster, pulled out all stops and compromised nothing.
The most remarkable thing about this album is the continued purity of Wanda Jackson’s voice. If you didn’t know Wanda Jackson from Adam, and the only clue to her identity was these recordings, you’d think she was sumptuous 20-something filly. The adorable, almost child-like quality to her voice has not weathered whatsoever despite being used as a weapon of rock & roll for over 50 years, and the rockabilly growl that adds a touch of devil to the angel voice is as raspy and enchanting as ever.
But Wanda’s voice seems like an afterthought sometimes to these heavy and loud compositions. The rockers of the album like “Shakin’ All Over” “Rip It Up” and “Thunder On The Mountain” come at you like a wall of sound, with very little to no space, and no elbow room between instruments or parts. Wanda gets buried as a horn section and Jack’s guitar vie for attention, and a muddy drum and bass duo walk all over each other. If you can zero in on any individual part, it is probably pretty damn good, but the band feels like it is playing at each other, instead of with each other.
There’s just a lot blurriness on this album, much of it in the bass and drums. I’m all for warmth and volume and a vintage feel, but the rhythm section seems to reverberate and clog up any breathing room in these songs, especially the more up-tempo ones. “Rum & Coca-Cola” is a fun song with some great arrangement and vision, but the vocal harmonics diminish the natural purity of Wanda’s voice. The wandering, swaying drunk of a tavern song called “Busted” works well until the horns and pedal steel come in all at once at the end of phrases, blasting your brain until your head feels like it’s been swaying in a pinball machine and you’re wrenching the wrong way on the volume knob.
However as the album goes on, the arrangements thin out a bit to let Wanda’s voice and inflections shine. The rockers on this album will get most of the attention, but “You Know That I’m No Good” was my fav, with Wanda commanding the mood of this sultry, seductive sonnet with her enchanting growls and coos. Generally speaking this album is more rockabilly than country, and maybe even more rock n’ roll than rockabilly, but the end track “Blue Yodel #6″ adds that tie to the roots from whence this music came, and allows Wanda again to show off her audible acrobatics with clean, confident, and classic yodels.
I like this album, I do. It’s good to put on in the background of a party and let it play, and it has some favorable aesthetics. But I wish there was a little less Jack White production and guitar, and a little more Wanda. The way it is set up, Jack’s name deserves to be on the front cover just as much as Jackson’s. If this album was presented with both names on equal footing, I might judge it differently. As it sits right now, it seems more like Jack White using the medium of Wanda Jackson to play music through. It’s still some very good music, and I like Jack White, but let’s not forget who the star is supposed to be.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up!
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Man. The new music news/albums/videos/whatever for January just won’t let up, and none might be bigger than Wanda Jackson’s collaboration with Jack White The Party Ain’t Over. Wanda AND Jack will be on David Letterman TONIGHT (1-20), and you can now hear the album streaming in its entirety on NPR’s First Listen.
The growl is still there folks, and Jack White may have never been better! And if they haven’t created enough buzz yet, they just released a video as well. Look out for this album to be earth shattering people.
And maybe on another side of the spectrum, just like Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers are a punk band that dabble in country every once in a while, a little bit further down the West Coast, the same can be said for Mike Ness and Social Distortion. As if we didn’t already have enough new music on out plates, they have a new album out as well called Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes, and just like Wanda, you can stream the entire album.
Having put out straight up punk albums, and country albums with a punk twist, this one at first glance feels like it is somewhere in the middle. Songs like “Bakersfield” and “Writing On The Wall” have a country feel with just heavier guitar. Also was really impressed with “Can’t Take It With You.” This one at to at least give a few minutes with the stream and decide if it is your speed.
Keep your eyes out for Saving Country Music reviews for both of these titles.
As much as we’ve been ballyhooing what a big year 2010 was for great music from independent and up-and-coming artists we love to champion around here, January 2011 might be a bigger month than any one 2010 can boast about. And it is especially big for the female artists, and artists taking a step up from burning CD’s out of the back of their car to more legitimate and professional releases.
Oh yeah baby! Can’t wait for this one. When Jack White teemed up with Loretta Lynn for Van Lear Rose, the result was one of Saving Country Music’s Albums of the Decade. Now Jack takes on the Queen of Rockabilly and I am frothing with anticipation of what that concoction will brew. They have already released a couple of tracks, “You Know I’m No Good” (see video below) and “Shakin’ All Over” and from what I’m hearing Wanda has still got it, and so does Jack! This is gonna be a big one folks!
This is Bob’s first serious release through the traditionally-metal label Century Media. For fans of his from the past, it includes much more slick versions of his past great songs, with a few new ones as well. Works as a great primer of his music if you are just learning about him, or a great addition to your collection if you have all three of his independent releases. Fun, rowdy music to listen to, with glimpses at masterful songwriting thrown in there too.
Right no this is available for pre-order through Century FOR ONLY $7.00 !!!
You can also listen to 4 songs from the album on his Facebook Band Page, of course, if you have Facebook, or are friends with him, or who knows what other provisos Facebook has put into place to preclude artists from promoting themselves.
Rachel Brooke – Down in the Barnyard – late Jan.
From one of my favorite female independent artists, this is her much-anticipated release that she has been working on for a long time to make sure it is “right.” Rachel’s work on albums like A Bitter Harvest have made many huger for that one seminal release from her, and by all accounts, this will be the one. She has been working very hard on it and has been uncompromising, while taking some risks as well. “I have been recording it at home, and have been playing just about all the instruments on it.”
No exact date on this yet, but as soon as one’s available, you’ll hear about it here. Also keep your eyes peeled for some Midwest tour dates with Rachel and Those Poor Bastards in March.
Folks who already ordered this album online, word is you should be expecting it very shortly. This is Joe’s first professionally-done CD, working with the legendary Jack Endino. It’s very similar to the Bob Wayne release, where it has a lot of Joe Buck’s classics redone better, with a few new ones mixed in. Piss & Vinegar was going to be released through Century Media as well before things fell through.
As explained when Saving Country Music released the EPK for this album, it will be available only in limited quantities online. The main distribution outlet is the Joe Buck show, which is not as daunting as it sounds due to Joe’s incessant touring schedule.
Little Lisa Dixie – late Jan.
Another one that is almost done with no definite date at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled. “I can’t wait for y’all to hear it! I’m so lucky for the friends and talented musicians who have lent their time and talent to help me out. I am forever grateful for y’all”
You can listen to four of the tracks on littlelisadixie.com, “Devil’s Gate” “Dance With The Devil” “Woke Up Broke” and “Stoned Again.” Such a sweet, innocent girl that Little Lisa is!
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Wanda Jackson & Jack White:
If you’re anything like me, if I want to hear some new music, you sure aren’t going to find me sniffing around CMT or burying your nose in the latest Rolling Stone. No, I’m likely going to be looking to the past, not the future. And man, what a thrill it is when you find a vein of music you’ve never heard before that unlocks months of new music for you to explore.
The little town I was living in at the time, Ashland, OR, people liked to rave about “Maddox Beef.” There was a farm just east of town that everyone knew as the Maddox farm. Little did I know that a woman that you can trace back some of the very foundations of country music to, someone who was making country before it was even called that, was buried in that town. And that this woman had a huge impact on rock n’ roll as well. And that this woman and her brothers were also the first to blend the two sounds into what today we call rockabilly, and that they were the first band to use the term “Outlaw” to refer to their music.
Rose Maddox has been called the Grandmother of Rockabilly, The Queen of West Coast Country, Miss Boogie, the Original Hillbilly Filly, and many more I’m sure, and her impact on modern music cannot be understated.
Rose and her brothers moved from Boaz, Alabama during the Depression era to California in search for work. The story goes that one day Rose’s brother Fred while working in a cotton field sat down on his sack, tired and frustrated, and proclaimed to the rest of the family, “We’re going into the music business.” The family called his bluff, and the band became known as the “Alabama Outlaws,” with Fred on bass, Cal on rhythm guitar, and 11-year-old Rose singing. They played weekday mornings from 6:30 to 7:00 on KTRB in Modesto, CA, sponsored by Rice’s Furniture Store.
Later in 1939 they would win a sponsorship by Anacin Pain Reliever at the Sacramento Fair and sign a contract with the McClatchy Broadcast Network that broadcast their music all over the West Coast.
“We were called hillbilly singers – not country – then.” Rose recalls. “No, none of this country music then. People just called us hillbilly. It took people in our field years and years just to get to the point where we were called country singers.”
During WWII Fred and Cal joined the armed services, and when they got back in 1947, younger brothers Don and Henry joined the band, Rose started playing some fiddle, and they began to go under the name “The Maddox Brother’s and Rose.” The group dropped their small label, called Four Star Records, and signed to Columbia. About this time is when Rockabilly was born, as the group mixed elements of their “hillbilly” or country music, with “boogie woogie,” later known as rock n’ roll.
Their up tempo, slap bass rhythm, and electric guitar blended with traditional hillbilly sounds was something that had never been heard before. It is where Rockabilly, or “country boogie” came from, but elements of it would also go into making what we now know as traditional country and rock n’ roll.
“People tell me that I was one of the first women to sing what I sang – country boogie.” Rose says. “I guess I was. There was no rock ‘n’ roll in those early days, before 1955. Only country boogie.”
By the mid 50′s The Maddox Bros. & Rose were touring coast to coast, and rockabilly music was an all out craze. The band played on the Louisiana Hayride, and toured with Elvis. Elvis’s bass player, Bill Black, looked up to Rose’s brother Cal as a mentor, and they played similar styles. As rock n’ roll was being formed, The Maddox Bros. & Rose were right there. They also played the Grand Ole Opry, the Las Vegas Strip, toured with Marty Robbins, and even Hank Williams.
In 1957 the band broke up, but Rose Maddox stayed on Columbia Records, making albums and releasing singles. She became known as “Miss Boogie,” and Rose was who every aspiring rockabilly or rock n’ roll female singer learned the craft from. You can hear the same rockabilly singing style that people like Wanda Jackson perfected in Rose’s early solo stuff:
“Kitty Wells would stand up there and not even move,” says Johnny Whitesides, who wrote a biography on Rose. “Rose would get on stage and high-kick and shimmy-shake. That drove people crazy.”
One of Rose’s more rockin’ tunes was called Wild Wild Young Men.
Emmylou Harris has stated that Rose and her brother’s combination of repertoire, stage presence and rural heritage helped make many more people aware of country music, and that Rose never received the recognition she deserved because of “a reluctance in American society to celebrate the value of white country and roots music.”
Rose Maddox had an indelible mark on country music, AND rock n’ roll, and virtually invented rockabilly. That is why it is a shame that the Country Music Hall of Fame has yet to recognize her, and it lends credence to the idea that there is a bias against country performers from the West Coast.
I’ve had numerous people whose musical tastes I appreciate tell me that I need to review the new album by the Rockabilly Filly Rosie Flores. The album is called Girl of the Century, and it has just been released on Bloodshot Records.
But to be perfectly honest, before I started hearing about this album, I did not know Rosie Flores from Adam, or Eve. So I rolled up my sleeves and started to dig, and man, what I found was not just one monster rockabilly goddess, but a national treasure.
I’ve always been fascinated by how rare the female lead guitar player is, and that is where my fascination for Rosie begins. But she’s not just a lead guitar/singer, she’s a guitar SLINGER, with an amazing voice and superb songwriting skills. Rosie is the full package: Wanda Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, and Texas heritage all rolled in to one explosive Latin firecracker!
And she’s been around for a long time. Girl of the Century is her first album in years, but she signed her first record deal with Reprise in 1987. She was billed as the female Dwight Yoakam, with a rockin’ Bakersfield country style and a neo-traditional twist.
Her biggest album of note was 1995′s Rockabilly Filly which is given credit for reintroducing the world to rockabilly pioneers Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin though Rosie’s solos with them, though many critics are saying Girl of the Century might be Rosie’s best album yet.
If you want to learn more about Rosie, click on the MySpace link above, but let’s not waste any more time before getting to the music out. Check out the Rockabilly Filly in action!
That was recorded less than two weeks ago, by a nearly 60-year-old Rosie still going strong. Here she is from back in the day, sharing the stage with Joe Ely, and taking a mean guitar break:
But if you’re saying, “Triggerman, I see the rock, but where’s the country?” Well see if this doesn’t put a tear in your beer:
Her voice has the Emmilyou Harris rasp, with the Patsy Cline yodel and twang. It’s absolutely amazing.
I’m not sure how I went 30+ without Rosie Flores in my music landscape. But I just solved that problem, and so should you.
Stay tuned for some album reviews of her stuff coming up.
The King of Juke Joint Swing and now a wily veteran of the underground country circuit, Wayne “The Train” Hancock will be releasing a new album this April, called Viper of Melody. According to waynehancock.com the album will feature his current touring lineup of Izzy Zaidman on lead guitar, Huck Johnson on slap bass, and Tony Locke on steel guitar.
“I’m like a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville. See that bloodstain slowly spreading? That’s me.” –Wayne Hancock
Also the one man madman band Scott H. Biram is also releasing an album in June called Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever.
“Some of the songs included on the album are “Sinkin’ Down”, “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” and “Judgement Day”. The Black Diamond Heavies appear on a cover of Muddy Waters’ “I Feel So Good” written by Big Bill Broonzy, and John Meyers of The Black Diamond Heavies appears on the SHB original “Hard Time”.”
I had no idea until reading about his new album that Scott H. Biram was on Bloodshot Records, the same Chicago-based label that Wayne Hancock is on. In fact, the Bloodshot Record stables is a proverbial who’s who in the underground country music scene. Check out this lineup:
Wayne “The Train” Hancock
Scott H. Biram
Split Lip Rayfield
Justin Townes Earle
The Legendary Shack Shakers
Bobby Bare Jr.
The Meat Purveyors
Wee Hairy Beasties (Don’t know em, but love the name)
And others that you can read HERE.
Bloodshot also recently put out a Wanda Jackson (who I wrote about in my last blog) tribute album, Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson
Check out this MP3 previewer I might start using in these blogs. Not necessarily trying to peddle anything, it’s just a great way to allow everyone to listen to the albums and songs I’m writing about.
Bloodshot Records needs to be commended. I get emails and comments upon occasion from people saying the we all focus on the negative too much around here when it comes to the country music scene, and I tend to agree with them. It’s just there so much negative stuff happening nowadays in country music, I feel like I’ve always got to have my dukes up, fighting for what I believe in.
But Bloodshot Records is one big thing to be thankful for. With so many of the Nashville labels perpetuating pop country and eroding the foundations of what REAL country music is all about, it is great to know there is at least one label, however small, willing to put their butt’s on the line for these artists, and not worrying solely about the bottom dollar.
The label was started in 1994 by Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller in Chicago. The idea was to “Champion the music that lurks between genres,” and because what we would all consider country music has been run underground by pop music parading as country, REAL country music artists have been a good fit for Bloodshot.
I found this little piece of art on their website:
I’ll tell you right here and now people, country music will die over my dead body. We have to cut the pop and money mongers out like a bad infection to hopefully save and preserve the music for future generations.
Bloodshot Records calls themselves “The Home of Insurgent Country.”
I like the sound of that.
I was happy to hear the news yesterday that the Queen of Rockabilly, the immortal Wanda Jackson is going to be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame on April 4th as an early influence inductee.
If you do not know who Wanda Jackson is then shit, I don’t even know where to start. She was the first female badass of music, PERIOD! Sexy, talented, saucy, raspy, rough, redneck, bad-ass, battle-axe wielding bitch that still outclassed anyone in rock n’ roll OR country in her time or ours.
Just the mention of the name Wanda Jackson makes me pitch a tent in my music pants. Her influence on rock n’ roll and country cannot be overstated, and as for rockabilly, well she WAS rockabilly. And she was a pioneer for women in music, not just standing up there looking and singing pretty, but shaking it, ragging her voice out, making you feel the pain and pleasure in the music.
She’s more Elvis than Elvis (they dated for a short period). If Johnny Cash had been born with an innie and not an outie, his name would’ve been Wanda Jackson. Get the point ?!?!
Check her out, and pay attention to the rasp in the voice, the hips, and watch for a cameo from a vintage double neck guitar:
I’m not going to lie people, watching Wanda Jackson gets me going. I’m gonna have to take a cold shower when I’m done writing this blog.
As her career moved on and the Rockabilly movement fizzled out, she got into straight country. This is one of my favorite Wanda Jackson tunes:
Man what a voice. AND she is still, at the age of 71, she is still writing songs, cutting albums, and playing gigs.
When I see all of these great REAL country/hellbetty girls of today, whether it is Rachel Brooke, Galea Bad Housewife, or Tonya Watts, I see a little bit of Wanda in them: Sexy but classy, talented, but most importantly a strong, aggressive sense of raw womanhood that gets me going every time.
Thank God (or Satan, not sure which to thank) for women with guitars!
Wanda Jackson Albums:
New Tim Pop Country Podcast
TIM POP LIVE has a new all country podcast out you should check out. Music from Hank III, Bob Wayne, and old school stuff from Waylon, the GREAT Wanda Jackson, and Bob Wills. Great intro too. If you haven’t checked him out yet, Tim Pop has been a big supporter of Free Hank III and even in his non-country shows he’s got great old school punk and rock he plays. Stuff you already like, and stuff you’ve never heard that you will. You can add him on MySpace HERE .
Hank III at Curb Records
If you missed this from my last blog, The Texas DJ of the Year JB Cloud called Curb Records and left this comment on the blog:
“Just talked to my buddy up there – Guess what? Hank III is in the building having a meeting right now. Oh, and when I called my buddy – he was in a meeting with the GM. I told him that I’d call him back but also asked him to send me a copy of the CD AND get it in the stores soon.”
So as all of you were calling, which I still discourage and hope that you DO NOT continue to do, at (615) 321-5080, HANK III WAS AT CURB! I’m hoping something got hashed out at that meeting, but so far I haven’t heard anything.
JB Cloud is just one of the many DJ’s, like Big ‘G’ and Miss Holley who play Hank III’s music and support what we are doing. The DJ’s are just as miffed as the fans, because they want the new Hank III to play.
And if you’ve ever wondered if Curb Records knows about us, I have previously received confirmation that Curb people HAVE been to freehank3.org and have read these blogs. Also when Walt the Terror called Curb the other day, the operator asked him if there was some kind of movement going on because they had been receiving so many calls. So yes, Curb knows were out here, and that we will not go away quietly.
T-Shirts? Bumper Stickers? Etc. ?
I had some people ask my why we don’t put some Free Hank III T shirts and other merch together, or maybe try to get some billboards put up. Don’t worry, that’s been on my mind since day 1 of this thing. I already have T shirt and sticker designs done, have talked to manufacturers and stuff. I’m just waiting to pull the trigger. Thing is, this stuff costs $$$, and though I’ve seemed to be able to justify carving out 20+ hours of my week to work on this shit pro bono, to take money out of my pocket is a little harder to stomach.
I would’ve already made some merch, but the thing is that it truly does seem that we are getting close to resolving this thing. Hank III was at Curb on Thursday meeting about something. Something tells me the whole reason for the delay in the new Hank III tour might have something to do with III needing to be around to take care of the legal stuff, or that they think they can get Damn Right, Rebel Proud released soon, BEFORE they launch a new tour.
But if it turns out that we are in for a long haul or there is some major setback, shit yeah we will make some merch, and since I don’t want to make a dollar off this thing, we’ll take the proceeds and use it to put up billboards or do whatever else we can to get Curb’s attention that costs $$$. I just don’t want to make a bunch of T shirts and then have Shelton tell me to chill the whole thing out because they finally got the whole contract thing resolved.
Also understand that at this point, Curb might want to walk away from the contract too. Hank III and Curb might just be fighting about how best to do that.
I’ll keep you posted.
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