Monday, January 24, 2011

Wanda Jackson Parties On: Every Inch An Elvis

 With her brand-spanking-new Jack White-produced album, 'The Party Ain’t Over' and the fun performances supporting it, Wanda Jackson, 73, is making her case not for mere rock and roll relevance in 2011, she’s cementing her status as royalty. She’s still got her trademark genius growl. A voice like no other. As a 1950s Rockabilly pioneer, her sexy sound, her way with a guitar, her wicked moves on stage, and dark drop-dead good looks made her a genuine Elvis equivalent. But her only number one hit, “Fujiyama Mama” happened in Japan, not the U.S.  The decade demanded that women appear to be docile Doris Days. But the world keeps waking up to its craving for Hard-Headed Women. 

It is fitting that her set at LA’s El Rey opened with “Riot in Cell Black #9” because Jackson is the ancestral force that busted out your favorite edgy rock females. (Who’s on your list?) She helped make Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Tina Turner, Siouxsie Sioux, Poison Ivy, Patricia Day, Kathleen Hanna, Alison Mosshart, Madonna, Britney, Beyonce, Gaga, Pink, Lykke Li —every woman who steps on a stage with her sex drive in the driver’s seat—well, she’s got Jackson to thank for getting her out of gender jail. Jackson moved charmingly through her El Rey set, belting out “Busted,” and “Mean, Mean Man” and slid into Amy Winehouse’s “You Know That I’m No Good.” She edited out some of Winehouse’s lyrical candor. “Thinking on you in the final throes/This is when my buzzer goes” and the lines that precede it hit the cutting room floor but the song burned like an acetylene torch anyway. It is remarkable to see any woman of any age carry off this confession. That you can throw this version on your turntable, watch the pink vinyl go around and around in endless self-reproach, and forget that it is a senior citizen singing it, attests to Jackson’s enduring talent. 
And when she rocks Little Richard’s classic “Rip it Up,” it seems possible to think that the hurt he put, and she put, on two different types of discrimination still has force we can use in the here and now. Jackson did a masterful job on her many fine oldies, including “Funnel of Love,” a song compellingly covered by Social Distortion’s Mike Ness in a raw tour de force of male yearning, male need. (Check out his 'Under the Influences' and note Social D has a new album/tour, 'Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.' LINK to SOCIAL DISTORTION) The Third Man Band, featured stand-up bass, steel guitar, a trio of badass horns, two sweet back-up singers, Black BellesOlivia Jean playing bass in a pretty party dress. It’s fun to think about how the mariachi sound on Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring of Fire” or White’s own cover of Patti Page’s “Conquest” with The White Stripes on 'Icky Thump' informed the dirty horns that are all over 'The Party Ain’t Over.' Jack White’s iconoclastic arrangements for Jackson make Rockabilly or Country tunes sound authentic without being paralyzingly retro. Wanda Jackson’s work provides an occasion to celebrate the vibrancy of Rockabilly/Psychobilly in all its forms from The Cramps and The Blasters through The Meteors and Demented Are Go, Reverend Horton Heat, Nekromantix, Horrorpops, and many more, as well as the Bad Boy/Pin-Up Girl subculture that keeps this music at the heart of their Saturday night stumblings in 2011. Wicked good! Jack White bears all of this in mind. His guitar is the voice box for a creativity simultaneously respectful and radical.
Jackson & White at the El Rey, LA
White’s guitar solos genuflect to a tradition he cherishes yet he detonates violent, and brilliant, garage punk flares, flair, fuzz, to keep things literally “Shakin All Over.” Goddess Wanda Jackson appeared both moved and amused as supplicant Jack laid at her feet the energy of MC5 or Ron Asheton or Bad Brains, as if trying to prove that rock’s extreme modes—what it does best– are one end result of the party she started.  White’s work with women, Meg White, Loretta Lynn, Alison Mosshart, Alicia Keyes, Karen Elson, Wanda Jackson, is a defining feature of his originality as an artist. If you’ve followed The White Stripes from the beginning, you’ve noticed that the only quality that exceeds the endearing geeky bossiness he shows around women, is an abject awe that appears to motivate every Hall of Fame thought that works through his guitars or drums or choices as a writer/producer. When the Tucson tragedy happened recently, and every thinking person was forced to grapple with the various ways our culture fails, I tried to scare up evidence of where it has had some real successes: in my lifetime, the races and the sexes have made good-faith moves to regard each other differently, more respectfully. There’s still mystification and incitement and heat of various kinds, but some progress has been made. When I watch Jack White with Loretta Lynn in the video they made for her song “Portland, OR,” off her Grammy-winning treasure, 'Van Lear Rose,' I credit the possibilities for reciprocity that now exists between the sexes although too few imbibe.

We can offer ourselves a hasty half-congratulations as we move forward together, needing each other. And let’s do take “a pitcher to go.”

Shakespeare's Sister as Elvis Equivalent: Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson performs a second sold-out night at the El Rey, followed by a tour, and a performance on Conan 1/25/11. Details at: Wanda Jackson at THIRD MAN RECORDS

Haunted George warmed up with gruesomely good Gothabilly guitar.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Lux Interior who passed away suddenly in 2009 in Glendale, CA, and remains in the hearts, and howling through the headphones, of legions of Angeleno fans of The Cramps. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Women in Pop Music 2011: Eleven to Watch Right Now

Yukimi Nagano and bandmates from Little Dragon
The best review of the voice of Little Dragon frontwoman Yukimi Nagano may be the huge percentage of concertgoers standing on the floor at Echoplex in LA who began caressing their companions as soon she started to sing. Nagano’s duet with Damon Albarn, 'Empire Ants,' on Gorillaz’s much-lauded 2010 album 'Plastic Beach,' and Little Dragon’s presence on their recent tour, brought her sensual, urbane, quirkily off-kilter R &B vocal style to a larger audience. The bandmates—Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrick Källgren (bass), and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards)—responsible for the faraway-and-acute quality of Little Dragon’s synths, bass, percussion make this Swedish group essential listening in 2011, but charismatic Yukimi Nagano is one star in a constellation of women fronting bands or working solo now who show how female creativity invigorates all genres of pop music. Here’s an eclectic list of eleven favorites, some new, some known, Nagano plus ten more, with a few bonuses thrown in. This diverse group is listed alphabetically. 
 Listen to their music at the end of this post.


Lelia Broussard is an folk-pop singer-songwriter with Gulf state LA roots now living in LA, CA. Her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 'Dancing in the Dark' invites his legion of fans to wake up to new voices.  Ditto on her take on Jack White’s 'Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.' Her album 'Masquerade' dropped near the end of last year and her tour info is here:

Best Coast’s Girl-Group-Goes-Garage sound captures our moment’s ache for sunny optimism that also acknowledges our no-frills lives, our threadbare economy, our nuts-and-bolts dilemmas. LA natives Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno surf-rocked their way to success-past-all-their-expections with their debut album 'Crazy for You,' released in summer of 2010.  They started off this year with an appearance on Jimmy Fallon. Cosentino’s revision of the great girlish vocalists who have proceeded her is so full of modesty, adoration, and fun, you wish somebody would have thought to have sounded like this during the long, hard slog of the Bush administration.

   Blondie, B-52s, Berlin fans will be glad to discover the voice of a new killer  blonde, Boston-based New Collisions frontwoman Sarah Guild. The power-pop quintet formed in Spring of 2009 and has a debut album called 'The Optimist' filled with pessimism, drive and baby neo-punk bravado.  

International Treasure P.J. Harvey will release a new album ‘Let England Shake’  on Feb. 14, 2011. A first track, 'The Words That Maketh Murder,' will be available as a digital single on 1/17/11.  Tour and festival details here:

 The uncategorizable force that is amazing Lykke Li will release a new album called 'Wounded Rhymes' and anyone who has heard her song 'Get Some' or seen her performance in its video, will want to get some of the new stuff. There will be twelve North American dates to get some live. 

    Vocalist Mariqueen Maandig  brings innovation and revelation to the music  of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. On Jan. 7, 2011 Reznor disclosed during a live interview for the New York Times online that a full-length How to Destroy Angels album will be forthcoming this year.  The new work will be “beat and rhythm-oriented” and offer a contrast to the sound of HTDA’s EP released last year.  Reznor/Ross will again work with Social Network director David Fincher, scoring his The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but HTDA with Maandig remains an important focus.

 English singer-songwriter Laura Marling offers a remarkable video library of her songs on her website. It is an encyclopedia of lyrical brilliance. 'I Speak Because I Can' features articulate, unsparing ballads. Marling will follow a date opening for Iron & Wine at the Wiltern 1/25 with a focus on completing her third album. 

On Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Ellen Degeneres enjoyed a sit-down with the drop-dead powerhouse MC behind the already-Platinum Nov. release 'Pink Friday,' Nicki Minaj. Check it out to see if Ellen gets to chat with the edited or the explicit version. Minaj is female ferocity to the max, and she can be funny as hell as well. Her turn as a dominatrix in Kanye’s ‘Monster’ video is captivating. She wields a physicality like Howard Huang’s goddesses (URBAN GIRLS LINK) as a source of non-stop power. She's single-handedly bringing female command and gutsiness back to hip-hop and every place else.

 Here’s Yukimi Nagano’s spot in this line-up. Check out

   Some teens and twenty-somethings don’t know that The Secret Sisters’ song “Something Stupid” is a cover of Frank Sinatra’s duet with his daughter Nancy. They just love the tune, and relate to its helplessness, the moment they hear the Alabama-born sisters hit the harmonies. T-Bone Burnett and Dave Cobb have made a Honky Tonk country album for Lydia and Laura’s debut. (The Sinatra tune is a pop exception on the disc's country menu.) The sisters voice reverence for the purity of country classics like 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' sung from the heart with purity and grace. The songs penned by Laura bode well for a future album of all-original compositions. 

Like Marling, Sharon Van Etten proves that the ability of female singer-songwriters to map the territory of the heart is unparalleled. Her work is personal, deep. Her voice itself scopes the contours of human vulnerability like a device that charts the depths of the ocean floor. Her second album is appropriately called 'Epic.' She’s touring the East Coast this month, then opening for The National in Europe in Feb. (Imagine hearing Matt Berninger and Sharon Van Etten in one evening.) She’ll play solo dates in the US in March and April.

You've got to check out singer Janice Whaley at
She has beautifully covered the entire catalog of original Smiths songs. 
I'm proud to have contributed.
Get the whole collection on one download and enjoy!

Bigmouth SXR says "Support The Smiths Project!" Amazing!

Bonuses: Jack White produced an album for legend Wanda Jackson and will play dates with her before she embarks on a solo tour. Catching up with her hallmark songs and cherishing this new stuff is an honor and a pleasure.

And Alison Mosshart of The Kills says that the duo’s new album, 'Blood Pressure,' will be released this April 5. 

And  . . .
on 1/11/11 Britney Spears 
dropped a new single called 
'Hold It Against Me.' 
2011, as predicted, is already turning out to be tough. We might as well dance. 

Masquerade by leliabroussard

Best Coast - When I'm With You by user1117597

Dying Alone by new-collisions

P.J. Harvey : The wind by Pete Davis

Lykke Li - Get Some by Music Fan's Mic

A Drowning by How To Destroy Angels by Future Phonograph

What He Wrote - Laura Marling by jokerwoman

Nicki Minaj - Did It On'em by GlobalGrind

 Gorillaz - Empire Ants (ft. Little Dragon) by rotolo3

Something Stupid by The Secret Sisters

Sharon Van Etten - Love More by dicklaingsales