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Hard-Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson

In the 1950s, lady singers were staid and conservative, not prone to appearing onstage wearing provocative fringed dresses, red lipstick, and glittery earrings, belting out sexy country and rockabilly numbers like Wanda Jackson. A true original, Jackson was paired on her first tours with Elvis, and the two briefly dated. Wanda had some pretty big hits in the States, but they really took a liking to her overseas, where her Japanese-themed kitsch tune "Fujiyama Mama" was number 1 for six months in Japan in 1959, and her German recording of "Santo Domingo" hit number 1 in six European countries. Later in life, she became a devoted Christian and recorded several gospel albums. It wasn't until Rosie Flores encouraged Jackson to join her tour in 1996 that she began performing her classics again to American audiences on the nightclub circuit.

The majority of the 21 acts contributing to this fine tribute album are young folk who've obviously been affected by Jackson's music, attitude, and style. The Ranch Girls lend an old-timey roadhouse feel to the cute "If You Don't Somebody Else Will," which features some fine mandolin playing. Rosie Flores delivers a flawless rendition of Jackson's "In the Middle of a Heartache," a song about being torn between two lovers. Kelly Hogan sings another Jackson original, the romantic stand-by-your-man tune "Right or Wrong." "This Should Go on Forever," which Kristi Rose powers with a full-throated roar, is a dreamy blues number with the familiar don't-leave-me/is-it-wrong-to-love-you? theme. These are all bang-up tunes that hark back to the traditional torch songs of the '40s and '50s, but with a country accent that places them in the small rural honky-tonks where Wanda Jackson first bowled over audiences.

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