“There’s nothing like a bunch of renegades paying tribute to a renegade – and that’s what you’ve got on Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson.” And that’s how writer (and co-producer of this cd) Holly-George Warren begins the liner notes for this outing, a collection of songs associated with Ms. Jackson and performed by both Bloodshotters and notable off-label cronies.
Known to many as the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson is a maverick performer whose influence has reached far beyond the genre and cast a long shadow on the history of music, both sonically and in her performance style; she is one of rock & roll’s original badasses. Wanda helped stake out a direct route from the feral origins of rock to the punks, riot grrrls, and psychobilly boundary-busters 50 years later. She kicked down the door to the good ol’ boys club that told us women couldn’t (or shouldn’t) bring the ferocity and attitude necessary for a truly liberating brand of music. She’s sang at the Opry, dated Elvis Presley, inspired Elvis Costello, and been covered by the Cramps. Hers is a powerful, genre-transcending legacy, and props are long overdue.
To quote Leonard “Motorcyclist of the Apocalypse” Smalls in Raising Arizona, “In order to catch an outlaw, you’ve got to hire an outlaw.” In that spirit, we’ve gone and hired a bunch of rebels to pay tribute to this rebellious performer. Showcasing songs that Wanda Jackson recorded and performed, the artists here cover the gamut. Rosie Flores, the guitar-slinging firebrand who asked Wanda in 1995 to record a duet with her on Rosie’s “Rockabilly Filly” release, contributes a swingin’ version of “Middle of a Heartache.” Neko Case’s rendering of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” evokes the saucy, spirited attack that Wanda’s brought to her performances since the ‘50s. Trailer Bride’s dark take on “Fujiyama Mama” thoroughly recasts the song, and in doing so refocuses the listener’s ear on its twistedly clever lyrics. And Wayne “the Train” Hancock’s turn at “Let’s Have a Party” enthusiastically echoes Wanda’s penchant for mixing a little wildness into the fun. Robbie Fulks, Anna Fermin, Jesse Sykes, the Bottle Rockets, Nora O’Connor, Candye Kane and more – guys and gals alike – chime in here as well.
Wanda Jackson’s mighty ways with a song enable her to lay claim to the material she performs, be it country, blues, rock & roll, gospel, honkytonk, rockabilly or swing. The dynamic performances delivered here -- on the barn-burners and raveups as well as the songs of heartbreak and pathos – are a celebration of the gutsy talent of an artist too long overlooked. Wanda Jackson’s fiercely independent spirit is given fresh new life in the voices and attitudes of these 21 descendants of the Hard-Headed Woman.