Seriously, what are the odds of hearing a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member rocking out with her band during a lunchtime concert
at a hotel bar? Fortunately, those odds get a little better when the Americana Music Conference is taking place in Nashville.
Wanda Jackson roared through a seven-song set Friday (Sept. 14) at the Sheraton
Nashville Downtown Hotel, the headquarters for this year’s conference. And while the street level bar isn’t known as a local
hot spot for live music, the still-feisty legend made it the place to be.
Hosted by Sugar Hill Records and CMT
Edge, the event was revealed to conference attendees only after they arrived in town. Sugar Hill will release Jackson’s
new album, Unfinished Business, on Oct. 9. The project was produced by singer-songwriter Justin
As for the hour of Friday’s show, Jackson admitted, “I’m usually just getting up at this time.”
didn’t matter, though, once her four-piece band, the High Dollars, cranked up the amps and edged up the twang to open with
the Link Wray guitar instrumental, “Rumble.”
Sharply dressed in a sequined jacket, she launched into “Riot in Cell
Block Number Nine” and another favorite from the ’50s, “I Gotta Know.” The crowd was already mesmerized by the time she got
to “I’m Tore Town,” the first track on Unfinished Business, and the devotion only grew stronger when she started yodeling
on “I Betcha My Heart I Love You,” a song punctuated by lead guitar riffs derived from the West Coast sound Jackson helped
She also offered two songs from 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over, produced by Jack White. After “Shakin’
All Over,” she performed “You Know That I’m No Good,” an Amy Winehouse song White urged her to record for the album. Noting
she was recently asked what it was like working with the White Stripes member, she lovingly described it as “a velvet-covered
She closed the brief set on a classic rockabilly note with her hit, “Fujiyama Mama.”
Jackson is one of
those unique artists with the sort of musical curiosity that has prevented her from becoming an oldies or novelty act. Working
with younger musicians and showing an open attitude toward new possibilities, she seems as vibrant at age 74 as many performers
half her age — or even younger.
Following the Americana performance, she told CMT Edge writer-producer Craig Shelburne
the location and time turned out to be a great one for her.
“The room downstairs here, it seemed like everybody loved
me,” she said. “You can’t go wrong! (laughs) I felt kind of like I was singing in my living room to a bunch of friends. And,
of course, when I have a good band behind me, it really drives me. That helps.”