Music News & Reviews

Wynonna Judd: ‘Still going for the heart’

Part of what makes Wynonna Judd so appealing is that she doesn’t care what the industry or music fans think of her.

The charismatic singer-songwriter has taken chances throughout her career. She could have played it safe as a pure country artist after reaching the pinnacle of Nashville performing with her mother, Naomi Judd. The tandem became the biggest-selling country music duo in history (later surpassed by Brooks & Dunn) during their ’80s run. The pair parted musically in 1991 after her mother was diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Wynonna Judd could have taken the easy way out as a solo artist going the country-pop route, but she has experimented with blues, gospel, roots-rock, pop and adult contemporary.

“It’s more fun that way,” Judd said while calling from her Los Angeles home. “I’ve always done things differently. I felt tormented by the fact that I didn’t give in. Being unique is lonely. No one is ever going to give you a prize for coloring outside of the lines. It’s a messy job being a pioneer.”

Judd, 48, has rolled the dice throughout her career, but she has enjoyed immense success after growing up in a hardscrabble environment in the mountains of Kentucky.

“I went from welfare to millionaire,” Judd cracked.

After recording 14 No. 1 hits with her mother, Judd, who will perform Thursday at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre, has four No. 1 hits as a solo artist.

“It’s worked out, but I’ve had to do things my way,” she said. “It’s nice because I feel like I’ve been the girl with the scarlet letter. I’m the girl who brought a pop artist (Michael Bolton) to sing with me on the CMAs. It was like, ‘What’s wrong with her? Is she on prescription drugs?’ Now they have pop artists with country artists on the CMAs all of the time. No matter what I’m going to do, I’ll never be a conventional artist. My friend Bono said it best: ‘Dreamers are the saviors of the world.’ ”

Expect the quick-witted Judd to banter with the audience and deliver entertaining anecdotes and to render such chart-topping hits as “She Is His Only Need,” “I Saw the Light” and “No One Else on Earth.”

“I love going out and performing,” Judd said. “I’ve never lost that desire. It’s my passion, and I want to remind everyone how it was once done. I believe music today is about gimmicks. Maybe I’m getting old, but I believe that in song, we’ve bypassed the heart and gone straight for the libido. It’s a shame, but when you see me, you’ll see that I’m still going for the heart. That’s what matters most.”