January 14, 2005

Various Artists "Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson"

Wanda Jackson is an artist that, sadly, you’ve probably never heard. She was a pioneer in the impressionable Rock & Roll scene of the mid-1950s, where she became quite well known for her gritty, hard Rockabilly style, (she would tour with a young Elvis Presley, who she’d label one of her inspirations) and she scored a major hit in 1960 with the raucous “Let’s Have A Party.” As the 1960s wore on, she toned down her music, opting for a more traditional Country style—and not surprisingly, she had a string of hit records, but this style would once again change in the 1970s, when she turned her stylistic focus to Gospel.

It’s no surprise, then, that Bloodshot, a label that’s considered the standard-bearer of “insurgent country,” would pay tribute to this somewhat (unfairly) obscure musical figure. After all, the correlation between Jackson and label acts such as Neko Case and Kelly Hogan (both featured here) is quite obvious. Thus, Hard Headed Woman is obviously a labor of love for Bloodshot, as they bring out many of the best artists of today—many of which are definitely indebted to Jackson, even if they might not know it.

Hard Headed Woman also serves as a highlight of a tribute record done right. First, the song selection covers the gamut, from Wanda’s own songs to songs she performed. Every era is covered, from her early Rockabilly days to her turn towards Country, all are given fair representation here—heck, even her Gospel era is touched upon. Secondly, the artists are appropriate for the material. It really wouldn’t be too strange to hear Carolyn Mark performing “Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad” in her own set list, Robbie Fulks’ “Tears At The Grand Ol’ Opry” could have easily found a place on his cover album, 13 Hillbilly Greats, and Wayne Hancock’s version of “Let’s Have a Party” reminds that Jackson was not only a contemporary of Elvis Presley, she could have easily (and probably should have been) considered his female equivalent. It’s also a testament to Jackson’s ability, then, that there are a few male takes on her material—which, in a roundabout way, shows that Jackson could hold her own in the then men’s only club of Rock & Roll. (The only complaint to be had, though, is that there’s not a cover of “Hard-Headed Woman”!)

Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson is a well-presented labor of love for an artist who most assuredly deserves more than her obscurity. Though this record might not change such things, it’s certainly evidence that Jackson was—and still is—a talent to reckon with. Well done

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.bloodshotrecords.com

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