Queen & Country

Wynonna Judd makes a big noise at McDonald Theatre

Country singer Wynonna Judd returned in 2019 with a chilling a capella rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” as well as “The Child,” a sparse, bluegrass and country blues-inflected song co-written with indie songwriter Cass McCombs. 

These were the first new songs from Judd since Wynonna & The Big Noise, the 2016 eponymous debut record from the singer’s most current backing band.

Wynonna & The Big Noise play Saturday, Jan. 25, at The McDonald Theatre in Eugene.

Judd’s new song “The Child” is seemingly autobiographical, referencing a queen — possibly Wynonna’s own mother, Naomi Judd, with whom she made her name as part of The Judds, one of country music’s most lauded and commercially successful duos in the 1980s and ’90s. 

With The Judds, as well as in her own solo work, Wynonna Judd has forged a third way for country, something apart from the rural honky-tonk and Nashville pop dichotomy, and influencing the rise of a more erudite form of Americana and alternative country music. 

All the while, Judd’s told real women’s stories in country, a genre in which women often amount to little more than a farm truck’s hood ornament.

As the name might imply, Wynonna & The Big Noise is a rocking affair, with special appearances from Cactus Moser, Derek Trucks, Jason Isbell and Susan Tedeschi.

On the album, Judd and her band handle everything from stadium-country riffs to the shuffling soul tune with a pop chorus, “Staying in Love,” a song about keeping the flame alive in a long-term relationship after a plateau.

Elsewhere, “Jesus and a Jukebox” is a folky weeper, “You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast” has a swampy kick and “You Are So Beautiful” is a full-on blues number. Throughout, Judd’s voice remains a broad, throaty holler that’s still somehow velvety.

Wynonna & The Big Noise play 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 25, at McDonald Theatre; $39-$69, reserved seating, all-ages.

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