Although it was first recorded by Billy Edd Wheeler, the song “Jackson” is now best known as an iconic Grammy-winning duet between country-music power couple Johnny Cash and June Carter.
This weekend, drag performer Trixie Mattel enlisted singer Orville Peck for a cover of the classic song as part of album Full Coverage Vol 1., with Mattel calling it “a stunning callback to the golden era of country music.” Peck, for his part, praised it as one of his favorite country duets and nailed what makes it such a great song. “There’s never been a greater country duo than Johnny Cash and June Carter,” he said. “I think ‘Jackson’ has remained iconic through the years because it perfectly captures the humor, storytelling and relationship between performers that every good country song should.”
In this version, Mattel plays June to Peck’s crooning Johnny, and the bouncy rhythm stays true to the original. Peck’s vocal in particular makes for a fun, updated cover.
But what makes Johnny and June’s “Jackson” so wonderful is the interplay between the two — her sass pitted against his swagger, her lines punctuated with growls and that amazing sarcastic “ha!” Unfortunately, Mattel falls flat here, missing an opportunity to really play with the material and infuse some attitude. Although it’s Mattel’s release, Peck is the one really shining, giving “Jackson” the delivery it deserves.
Still, “Jackson” is a delight, and fans of both artists are certain to enjoy it. And maybe a new, younger generation of fans will be introduced to its charming wit.