3 stars (out of 4)
Rockabilly singer and proto-riot grrrl Wanda Jackson was revving up audiences on bills with Elvis Presley in the ‘50s, and she’s influenced several generations of rockers, including her recent producers Jack White and Justin Townes Earle.
White got a little carried away on her 2011 album, “The Party Ain’t Over,” adding horns and Caribbean accents that muted the still-combustible Jackson. Earle takes over on “Unfinished Business” (Sugar Hill), and keeps the sound more tightly tethered to the singer’s honky-tonk and rock ‘n’ roll roots. She responds with off-the-cuff sass on “Tore Down,” “The Graveyard Shift” and “Pushover,” her nasal twang breaking into a stray-cat growl. She whirls around the dancefloor on the gospel-fired “Two Hands,” written by Earle’s late namesake, Townes Van Zandt. But she sounds almost impatient with the Wilco-Woody Guthrie tune “California Stars,” not quite fully inhabiting the dreamily atmospheric ballad. She connects much more deeply with the country lament “Am I Even a Memory?,” a duet with Earle. Her interpretation affirms that even at 74, she’s still much more than that.
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