Wanda Jackson – Unfinished Business (Music Review)

Unfinished Business

Wanda Jackson – Unfinished Business

In addition to releasing his own album, Justin Townes Earle also recently produced Wanda Jackson’s Unfinished Business. He’s a very different talent than Jack White, who produced The Party Ain’t Over for her, and their two albums make an interesting contrast. Though I now think I was a bit harsh on Party, my basic criticism stands: White brought in an energetic rock band that drowned out the aging Jackson. Earle brings a gentler band in, emphasizing the swinging country side of Jackson’s rockabilly legacy, and she sounds a lot more confident now.

The song selection is strong throughout. It’s unfortunate that these are all covers, but Jackson came of age in a time when it was expected that other people would write the songs she sang. Today, that apparently means that she sings previously-released songs, instead of having someone write her new material. However, these are mainly underplayed songs that deserve her attention: One track from Earle appears here, as does one from his father Steve and namesake Townes Van Zandt. All feel appropriate for Jackson’s style and persona, even though only a few are from her heyday. The only one that falls short is “California Stars”. The Woody Guthrie/Wilco song is a good choice, but the delivery feels rushed.

Unfinished Business doesn’t have the high points of The Party Ain’t Over, but it more than makes up for that by feeling like a coherent album without the missteps either. Jackson is charismatic and comfortable, and her throaty growls sound as good as ever. While she’s obviously not young anymore, she and Earle never sound like they’re stretching beyond her capabilities.

I wonder if I’ll ever get to hear Jackson perform new material with supporters of this caliber. Probably not, but at least this is a fun album, and a worthwhile tribute to her influence.

Grade: B-

 
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