3 Out Of 5 Stars
A surprisingly supple and solid album, "Unvarnished" finds a mature Joan Jett and her long time associates, The Blackhearts, addressing life and the events that follow in a grown up world. Family, politics, personal strife are all touched upon. Even so, Jett commands a rocking album this time around, much more so than 2006's "Sinner."
Jett was affected by Superstorm Sandy, which she touches on in the opener, "Any Weather." As much a rallying cry as a discussion of the events of the devastation, it deals with its subject without turning maudlin. In fact, it kicks butt. Jett also hits a tough chord when she sings about the loss of family members in both "Fragile" and "Hard To Grow Up." She still loves rock and roll, but now she sees that love from the viewpoint of an adult.
That doesn't mean Jett gives rocking the short shrift. "TMI" (too much information) and "Reality Mentality" looks at a world where stars are viewed through a paparazzi lens 24/7, and how musical reality shows invent stars that might not be worth the effort to get to know. Coming from a woman who had to shake off the slime of over-hype to make her career count, show knows from where she preaches.
"Unvarnished" is a self assured look at this modern world, even to the point where the usually obligatory cover song is passed on. Jett wants her work to stand for itself, and for the first time in many albums, "Unvarnished" maintains a standard that Jett set for herself in her lengthy career. Not bad for someone who now sees music she's created enter a fourth decade.