The Hamilton has excelled at finding living legends to grace its stage. Tonight is no different as the “first lady of rockabilly,” Wanda Jackson, takes the stage. The Oklahoma City native has been a relentless musical force throughout her career, which now spans nearly 57 years, including a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2009. There’s not much Jackson can’t do and she keeps on doing it well.
Her most recent album, Unfinished Business, produced by Justin Townes Earle, is a showcase of all her formidable skills in country, blues, and of course, rockabilly. The album kicks off with a fantastic version of Freddie King’s “Tore Down,” (a more famous version was done by Eric Clapton on his From the Cradle album), and the 73-year old Jackson rips it up. The album flows through nine more wonderful numbers, all featuring Jackson’s hard-edged but lovely voice, which has that “lived in” sound she’s enjoyed since her youth and which has been emulated by countless of her modern admirers. One of those admirers was the late Amy Winehouse, whom Jackson honored with a cover of “You Know I’m No Good” on the Jack White-produced 2011 album The Party Ain’t Over. The album ends with a soft version of Woody Guthrie’s “California Stars” which, while clearly nodding towards the Billy Bragg/Wilco version, becomes all Jackson’s.
There aren’t many artists around who have worked with Jack White, Cyndi Lauper, The Cramps, Buck Owens, and both Elvises (Presley and Costello), not to mention be a part of a biopic about Johnny Cash. They don’t get more legendary than Wanda Jackson, and you can expect those years of experience to be on display tonight.