Here she builds on the success of last years The Party Aint Over, her collaboration with Jack White, but unlike that effort, this album is raw, spare and constructed to showcase the Oklahoma-born-and-bred Jacksons prodigious gifts. Ample credit goes to Justin Townes Earle, who produced this 10-song collection of blues, country, gospel and soul covers.
Things start appropriately with a bluesy swagger in Freddie Kings Tore Down. Thats deftly followed by the wry honky-tonk of The Graveyard Shift, penned by Earles father, Steve Earle.
Jacksons voice is in strong form throughout, veering from the Kewpie-doll growl of Pushover to a seen-it-all joyousness that permeates Townes Van Zants gospelfueled Two Hands. The records finest moments are the most low-key. In Am I Even a Memory?, written by alt-countrys Greg Garing, Jackson brings the heartbreak for a gorgeously plaintive weepie.
Perhaps best of all is the closing California Stars, in which she takes on a once-forgotten Woody Guthrie composition later given shape by Wilco and Billy Bragg. Jacksons gritty, earthbound interpretation helps anchor the songs innately dream vibe.
Sexy, tough and poignant, Unfinished Business proves there is no expiration date for cool. Phil Bacharach
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