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Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose
Buy! - (Interscope)
Loretta Lynn has always been my favorite female country singer, and one of my favorite songwriters. She personifies the down-to-earth directness and deep rural soul of traditional country music -- her rags-to-riches life story and her best songs are rightfully a part of country music legend. In a bold stroke, she hooked up with big fan Jack White of the White Stripes (their album White Blood Cells was dedicated to her). He produced Van Lear Rose, played guitar, occasional piano and percussion, and also sang some backing vocals. Make no mistake though: This is Loretta's album. She wrote every one of these magnificent songs, and many of them are Loretta at her very best, exploring a range of traditional country themes and parts of her own storied life with the fearless honesty that's made her famous. Every song here is overflowing with Loretta's endearingly earthy personality. The sound ranges from traditional country to some ferocious blasts of bluesy roots-rock -- some of this stuff is just plain incendiary: "Mrs. Leroy Brown" rocks nearly as hard as "Seven Nation Army," while the story it tells is classic Loretta -- a fed-up wife chasing down her philandering husband and his girlfriend, going from bar to bar in a pink limo, rented out by emptying her husband's bank account, and giving them hell once she finally tracks them down. Other highlights include "Portland, Oregon," a fabulous duet with Jack about the joys of getting drunk in the Rose City, the spare traditional country sound of "Family Tree," where Loretta confronts the "trash... burning down our family tree" with kids in tow, accompanied by mournful fiddle and steel, the touching story of her mother's beauty told in the title song, the first-person tale of a woman on death row about to be executed in "Women's Prison," the feeling of being disconnected from God in "Trouble on the Line," the simple joys of country living expressed in the acoustic singalong "High on a Mountain," and the emptiness in her life after the death of her husband Mooney heard in both "This Old House" and "Miss Being Mrs." And remarkably, at age 69, Loretta gives some of the best singing performances of her career -- not only is her voice still in great shape, but she also still sings with an honesty and directness that lesser mortals can't touch. Some fans might be put off by the rawness of the sound, not to mention its occasional fierceness, but that's their loss. Van Lear Rose is the most distinctive and just plain real-sounding country album I've heard in a long time. 4/8/2004 - Don Slack
Other Loretta Lynn album reviews:

Van Lear Rose - 4/12/2004