Wanda Jackson back on the road

AT 75, Wanda Jackson is undergoing something of a career revival.

In the past two years, she had the likes of former The White Stripes frontman Jack White and US singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle knocking at her door with offers to produce her music.

Meanwhile, British chart-topper Adele has been quoted as crediting Jackson's 1961 release Funnel of Love for influencing her own Grammy award-winning hit Rolling In The Deep.

Not bad for a girl from Oklahoma, who released her first album in 1958.

"It has been quite a ride," Jackson told H2 Live from Kentucky.

Now, 57 years after first touring with Elvis Presley, Jackson is on the road again and returns to Australia for Bluesfest to promote her 31st studio album Unfinished Business, which she released in October after teaming with Justin Townes Earle (son of Guitar Town singer-songwriter Steve) to produce the record.

At 31, Earle is 44 years younger than Jackson but she said having young blood around - likewise with Jack White who produced her last album, 2011's The Party Ain't Over - allowed her to feed off their energy when making music.

"There's energy in the room when you're working with - especially creative - young people," Jackson said. "So, I'm always open to their new ideas and willing to try, you know. I enjoy working with young people."

The album takes Jackson back to her rockabilly and country roots.

Among covers of Woody Guthrie's California Stars, Bobby and Shirley Womack's It's All Over Now and Steve Earle's The Graveyard Shift, Jackson recorded a duet with the younger Earle on Am I Even a Memory during the four-day session that marked his debut as a producer.

Time constraints for both forced them to record "the old-fashioned way", much to Jackson's delight.

"I had the band right there in the studio with me and I really enjoyed doing that type of recording again," Jackson said.

"I didn't have the full band all that time - we put voices on after and we added some instruments afterwards - but it was enough to give a good, full sound and that's what I enjoy - seeing the musicians, looking them in the face while they're playing, you know? I like that."

While she admitted to being unfamiliar with Earle's music before they got together, she is now a fan of his work.

"I have to admit, I wasn't real familiar with Jack White either [laughs]. But I do like them now.

"Naturally, I've listened to Justin since and he is a fine artist. He sings great."

Jackson said Earle came up with the title Unfinished Business.

"To me it just means don't count me out just yet," she said.

"I still have songs to sing and people to meet and things to do so I still got unfinished business."

And how does she compare working with Earle and White?

"Well, let's see . . . I guess Jack would be kind of like a firecracker and Justin would be like slipping on an old, comfortable pair of house slippers," Jackson laughed.

Jackson - dubbed the "Queen of Rockabilly" - recalled first being exposed to music aged six, when she joined her parents at dances where a big-band played Western swing.

"The girl singers yodelled and wore pretty clothes and I said: 'Oh, that's what I'm gonna be when I grow up'," Jackson said.

"I had an early influence and it just sparked something in me. I feel like I found what I was born for."

But there was little in the way of female artists to look up to for a young girl growing up in the '40s and '50s.

"There were some in the pop field but as far as country and rockabilly, I was about the third girl to record country and the first for rockabilly and rock'n'roll, so I didn't have anyone to pattern after," she said.

"I just got out there and went for it."

Jackson was barely out of high school when she met Elvis Presley, who talked her into doing the "rock thing".

In 1955, Jackson embarked on her first tour, supporting Presley, and they briefly dated (she has been married to husband Wendell Goodman since 1961).

A year later, she signed to Capitol Records, marking the beginning of a long recording career that has landed her in the country, rockabilly, pop and rock charts with hits including Let's Have a Party, Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine, Fujiyama Mama and Heart Trouble.

Jackson, who was inducted as an "early influence" into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, said Presley taught her something she kept with her throughout her career.

"I worked with him early on - it was 1955 that I first worked with him - so back then, I was probably more serious in my thinking about how I might dress and what should I say and what people might think but, from being around him, I learned not to take myself so serious," Jackson said.

"It's done well for me."

Wanda Jackson performs at Lizotte’s Newcastle on March 25. Bookings online at lizottes.com.au or by phoning 49562066.

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