Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Diamonds from Coal
Lynn: Van Lear Rose
Posted: April 29,
Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn's first album in four years, sounds
like a birthday gift to herself. Reflecting on a lifetime of triumphs and
travails, Lynn (who turned 70 on April 14) has crafted the most personally
felt, universally inclusive record of her career. Benefiting enormously from
Jack White's unvarnished, fast-take approach, Van Lear Rose stays
true to Lynn's classic honky-tonk roots, but also rocks harder than anything
the singer has recorded. The collaboration between the Motor City-reared
White Stripes singer and Kentucky-bred Coal Miner's Daughter is an ideal
pairing, with White's brawny riffs and bluesy roots adding tactile weight to
Lynn's nakedly direct, female empowered vocals.
Despite lyrical concerns that touch on everything from infidelity ("Family
Tree") to death row ("Women's Prison"), Lynn remains steadfastly
life-affirming in her outlook throughout. It's as if she's cast herself in
the role of the wise woman people in the community seek council from during
troubled times, a person who's seen and done it all twice over. There's
little in the way of regret here; rather an appreciation for having lived
long enough to reflect on one's experiences, both good and bad. The starkly
acoustic widow's lament "Miss Being Mrs." is as close to outright despair as
Lynn comes; but even here she manages to find the resolve to push forward
rather than wallow in self-pity ("I took off my wedding band / And put it on
my right hand").
White and the rest of the backing band (amusingly dubbed the Do Whaters by
Lynn for doing whatever needed to be done to make the record shine) provide
the backbone of Van Lear Rose. "Portland, Oregon," detailing an
alcohol-fueled one-night-stand, features an effectively lithe, jam-oriented
lead-in and some exceptional slide guitar that fleshes out the song's randy,
devil-may-care attitude. Stamping feet and a shuffling beat nicely
complement the sing-along, spirited exuberance of "High on a Mountain Top."
The bouncing "Have Mercy" is a high point, with Lynn putting aside her more
autobiographical tendencies in favor of simplistic, '50s-style rockabilly
lyrics, backed by White's guitar-driven histrionics and a rolling
thunderclap backbeat. Likewise, "Mrs. Leroy Brown" is a rough-hewn
romper-stomper that puts a clever feminist spin on the more famous Mr.
Brown's widely circulated tale.
On the closing "Story of My Life," Lynn says "Listen and I'll tell it
twice." Cleary she's underestimating the replay value of Van Lear Rose.
This is one record fans of the artist won't get tired of hearing anytime
soon, an impressive way to celebrate seven decades of living and more than
half a century of performing.
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