“I was never that big superstar,” Jackson says. “I was right there with them, recording and working the same places and on tour with all of them, but I never had those big hits because America wouldn’t accept a girl doing this kind of Rock & Roll.”
Of course, Jackson’s fans don’t give a flying fig about the misogynistic missteps of a bygone era. Their devotion has kept her touring over the past five decades. After a recent European jaunt, she’s out for a string of American dates backed by New York’s Lustre Kings, one of the best Rockabilly bands in the country.
“I don’t feel that old," Jackson says with a laugh.
“In your mind you’re always twenty- or thirtysomething, but your body reneges on you. As long as my husband and I have our health and we enjoy our travels, I’ll do it as long as I feel comfortable and people will come out to see me. This Rockabilly scene just exploded around me and they won’t let me quit.”
Jackson’s career took an upswing with the ’80s Rockabilly revival, making her a big draw in Europe and Scandinavia. In 2003, Jackson did her first domestically recorded album in 20 years, attracting artists who counted her among their influences (including Elvis Costello, Rosie Flores and The Cramps). The resulting album, Heart Trouble, generated great reviews and rekindled interest in Jackson. Just last year, she was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence, and she recently wrapped up sessions for her latest album, tentatively slated for early fall release.
Jackson’s producer is White Stripes guitarist Jack White who, as it turned out, is one of her biggest fans. (White, Jackson and Greenhornes/Raconteurs rhythm section Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence recorded a warm-up single, a version of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” backed with the classic “Shakin’ All Over,” which is available now from White’s Third Man Records.)
“(White) had his ideas about where he wanted to take me on this musical journey,” Jackson says of the singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer who took on a similar project with Loretta Lynn’s acclaimed comeback album a few years back. “I didn’t get the full hang of it until I got in the studio, and then I realized he didn’t want to change my style. He was pushing me to do songs that I didn’t know — there were only a few that I actually did know — and he pushed me and pushed me until he pushed me right into the 21st century, which was his aim.”
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