Jack White has a way with older women.
In 2004 the songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and leader of the now defunct White Stripe, produced a brilliant album on Loretta Lynn, and last month saw the release of White's latest collaboration with a female star of the past--rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson.
In the testorone fueled world of early rock and roll, Jackson was an anomaly, a party girl who could rock with the big boys both in terms of grinding energy and undisguised sexuality, quite a contrast with the female country stars of the day, big voiced show singers like Patsy Cline singing honky tonk weepers, or singers like Kitty Wells whose signature records like "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" were morality tales of domestic tranquility.
By contrast Jackson was a spitfire. When she sang "Rock Your Baby" there no doubt of it's meaning:
Perhaps the only antecedent for Jackson's incendiary, yelping records of the 1950s were the wild, proto-rockabilly party records of The Maddox Brothers and Rose, whose guitar-fueled, slap-bass driven country boogie records of the 1940s mixed country, western swing and boogie in a style that is formally almost indistinguishable from the early rock and roll music that would emerge in the subsequent decade.
Give a listen to the Maddox Brothers & Rose's 1949 record George's Playhouse:
Jackson took it a step farther, rhythmically and lyrically. She wasn't sweet voiced nor was she anybody's idea of a domestic diva witness her most famous hit, 1956's Fujiyama Mama. "I drink a quart of sake, smoke dynamite/I chase it with tobaccy and then shoot out the light," Jackson sang. "Well you can talk about me say that I'm mean/I'll blow your head off baby with nitroglycerin" Incendiary indeed!
The Party Ain't Over, Jackson's White-produced new record, isn't the deep, personal record that was Van Leer Rose, the record White produced for Loretta Lynn. On that record White pulled original stories and songs from Lynn that were autobiographical and profound. With the The Party Ain't Over, instead of trying to draw something new from the 73-year-old singer, the producer paired Jackson with mostly older material that harkens back to the records, and era, that made Jackson famous, material like Little Richard's "Rip It Up" and a version of the Andrews Sisters 1940s calypso novelty Rum and Coca-Cola that's not nearly as decorous as the original.
The ringer, and the albums' first single, is a cover of Bob Dylan's recent "Thunder on the Mountain," a song recommended to White for the project by Dylan himself. Dylan's original version hits at the rockabilly music that inspired him, but Jackson and White take it to the house with a full-burn rocked out version.
Who says old timers can't party?