Years before she was one half of the Judds, one of the most successful duos in country music history, Wynonna was simply a fan of music — all genres of music. Born in Kentucky and raised in California before moving to Nashville, the singer’s well-documented life has been rife with “full circle” moments, including a couple that led to the recording of one of many standouts on what is her first “band” album, the raw, vibrant and infinitely entertaining Wynonna and the Big Noise.
“Jesus and a Jukebox,” written by Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman and David Tolliver, is a love story that’s etched in grief and loss but strengthened by unwavering faith. For Wynonna, the ballad also represents the yin and yang of classic country music and, of course, real life.
“When I was 15, I went and saw George Jones in concert — my first concert ever. I sang at his funeral [in 2013],” she tells Rolling Stone Country. “It was literally the end of an era for me. It made me really aware while making this record of how we’re losing our legends. This is an honor moment on the record, where I go back to my roots. The pedal steel is a foundational instrument on the record, and in country music; the words are a story, which country music is — stories about real life, real people in the real world.
“This guy has lost the love of his life,” she continues. “The fact that the song goes from the Bible to the bar made sense to me. Grief ebbs and flows. The Word reminds him that he’ll see her again, but the bar is helping him to let her go. It’s just very real and very honest.”
In many ways, “Jesus and a Jukebox” could be seen as the last chapter of a love story that began with one of the Judds’ best-loved hits, the 1989 chart-topper “Young Love (Strong Love).” There are faint melodic glimmers of the original in this tune, once again suggesting that Wynonna, whether consciously or not, is coming full circle with an LP that is most definitely a band effort and not the superstar singer’s latest solo effort. But where the Judds’ records were polished and precise, Wynonna and the Big Noise is raw and adventurous. It’s also a chance for her to share the stage with her husband of three-and-a-half years, drummer Cactus Moser, who lost his left leg but survived a horrific motorcycle accident just two months after the two were married in 2012.
“I’m not holding back. I’m not trying to put anything in a format or compartmentalize,” Wynonna says of the album, which she calls a “musical coming-out party” and was recorded in a tiny shed on the couple’s property outside Nashville. “It’s like the most awesome phoenix rising.”
Wynonna and the Big Noise will be released February 12th.