In which one of country’s underappreciated singers gets some love from Rolling Stone, Jack White, and me.
Jack White, my generation’s musical North Star, has introduced me (and countless others) to Loretta Lynn by championing her throughout his career. First, his cover (with The White Stripes) of her “Rated X” was spot on and of course made me go investigate the original (more on that song later). Then he produced her terrific 2004 album Van Lear Rose, dueting on the lovely “Portland, Oregon”. Of course, before Jack White loved her, many others did – and this best-of collection is a prime example why.
Her homage to her childhood and her father toiling in the Van Lear coal mines, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, is her best known track and finds its appropriate home here. However, there are several tracks that shine brighter than this one. A terrific piano riff and bassline accompany Loretta singing “while I’m at home working and slaving this way, you’re out misbehaving and spending all your pay; on wine, women, and song” on the first track, the excellent “Wine , Women, and Song”. She tells her man that two can play that game, as one of these days when he gets home he’ll find that she’s out on the town herself.
Such is the modus operandi of Loretta Lynn – she has the pipes and catalogue of songs that can match Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and any other classic country singer, but she brings her own brand of empowerment along. For an example, check out “Happy Birthday”, where Loretta informs a no-good lover that his other can help him celebrate his birthday, Christmas, and the New Year.
Her attitude is directed at another woman who thinks she can steal her man away on the legendary “Fist City” (an invitation to get punched in the face, folks) and on the sassy “You Ain’t Woman Enough”, where she proclaims “it’ll be over my dead body, so get out while you can, cuz you aren’t woman enough to take my man”.
My personal highlight is “Rated X”, which attacks the long-gone (?) stigma attached to women after divorce: “nobody knows where you’re goin, but they sure know where you been… the women all look at you like you’re bad, the men all hope you are, but if you go too far you’re gonna wear the scar of a woman, rated X”.
My favorite tracks are those with a faster pace and some attitude, but in truth this entire album exemplifies old-school country in all of its glory. The numerous duets with Conway Twitty are so on point that they’ll be sure to polarize those who like that old twang and those who don’t. “After the Fire is Gone” is my favorite of their five collaborations found here. Finally, her take on Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You” is as heartbreaking and stunning as the famous Patsy Cline version.
Worthy Tracks: “Wine, Women, and Song”, “Happy Birthday”, “You Ain’t Woman Enough”, “Fist City”, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “After the Fire is Gone”, “Rated ‘X’”, “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed”, “She’s Got You”, “I Can’t Feel You Anymore”
Final Verdict: Once again, Jack White is right: Loretta Lynn is a treasure, and this is a great introduction to her work.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1xszIYZw0waqfnGk6le7hg?si=qMhxZa86SPStBNGdSDenyQ