When it was announced that Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside were going to tour with the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, you couldn’t help but think that it was destined to be a perfect pair. On one side, you have the younger generation who is keeping the sound alive, and on the other the one who started it all.
On a night that included a couple larger shows in the area (which is a rarity), they were still able to bring a larger crowd to The Depot at Humboldt State University. Sallie Ford embarked on a short West Coast tour after coming back from a European tour that included Germany, France, Switzerland, and Belgium. The choice to have Sallie Ford was open was, in a way, a changing of the guards. You have a newer, younger artist who is exploring the retro sounds of 1950s with a mix of rock, country, blues, and jazz while giving it her own sound. Sallie’s voice is strong and distinct, with almost a doo-wop quality. She happened to be using two microphones for the night – something she said was a first for her in a live setting. They ripped through “I Swear,” which is a statement about modern music and was a more familiar song to the crowd. “Against the Wall” had a Tom Waits-esque feel to it. Not only is she a solid singer, Ford can shred at guitar, and at one point during their short but very satisfying set, lead guitarist Jeff Munger joked that Sallie was a better guitar player than him.
That night, Wanda was backed by the country-western band Red Meatout of San Francisco. Before Wanda made it to the stage her band warmed up with the gritty Link Wray classic “Rumble” followed by “Riot in Cellblock #9,” which brought Wanda out, smiling and singing with gusto. Jackson gave a history lesson throughout the show of the songs she was playing and who she’s played them with. When she mentioned Elvis she explained that she never would have played what we now called rockabilly if it wasn’t for him pushing her to play it. She owed a lot to Elvis and paid tribute to him throughout the night including renditions of Presley staples “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Speaking of musical influences, if it wasn’t for Jack White many of those in attendance might not be aware of Wanda Jackson. White produced and played guitar on 2011’s The Party Ain’t Over, which broadened and revitalized the fan base of this well-deserving artist. She talked about one of the songs she did not want to initially – Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” – which she said was not an “age appropriate” song, though after some convincing and White tamed down a verse, Jackson agreed to play it.
Wanda’s voice has not changed much at all from when she started out, and she is still able to yodel and belt the songs out with her recognizable, singular flair. At one point during the show Wanda shared a personal anecdote with the audience about accepting Jesus into her life many years ago, which segued into a soulful rendition of “I Saw The Light.” She ended her set with one of her biggest hits, “Let’s Have a Party,” where Wanda left the stage briefly before coming back on for an encore of “A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” that returned to “Let’s Have a Party.”
This small number of dates brought together a legend and an up-and-comer in the rockabilly genre, an empathetic pairing the small town of Arcata was lucky to witness. It made for a steaming, solid night of music from two women who share a lot in common in the energy and flair they bring to their music.
Source: Jam Base