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CD Reviews: Review of Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn
Red Rocker Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Entertainment Web Guide

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (2004)

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Wow. Sometimes we get knocked back a notch in the business of listening to, and trying to interpret for others, new music. Sometimes still we get flat stunned. I don’t know if it’s a new White Stripes record with Loretta Lynn filling in on vocals or a Lynn record with the Stripes providing the garage band sentiment and modern-day appeal. But since her name is on the sleeve, we’ll settle for what it is: Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn (produced but not written by Jack White). And it’s the best new album I’ve found this year.

Allow me to affirm a couple of pretty amazing facts right up front. First, the country icon is 70 years old now. More notably, Van Lear Rose represents Lynn’s first ever album of completely original material that she has penned all by her little ol’ lonesome. Sure, it’s produced and arranged (not to mention very heavily influenced) by Jack White, but these are her songs through and through. No way to argue the two-step tambourine boogie that is “High on a Mountain Top” or the grisly front-porch mantra “This Old House.” Nope, these pearls of wisdom and heartache could just as easily have been shared with Patsy Cline or Buck Owens. In fact, the poetic reading of “Little Red Shoes” not only transcends a made-for-TV movie starring Shirley McClain, but it narrates the very kind of hard-knock upbringing that would drive most anyone and their guitar to Nashville in the first place.

These songs are astral. Whether thumbing a sober ballad (“Miss Being Mrs.”) or grinding out the electric climax to a steel-guitar classic (“Women’s Prison”), Lynn seems more certain in this skin than any I’ve never heard her display before. Admittedly, I don’t own a back catalog of Loretta Lynn records. It took a blockbuster alliance here, not unlike the renowned partnership between Rick Rubin and the late Johnny Cash in the mid-1990s, to really peak my interest. As it stands, I can’t imagine the end of 2004 without having benefited from a monumental cut like “Portland, Oregon.” White Stripes fans will gobble up this hayseed offering for no other reason, as White executes a perfect duet. Another must-hear is “Have Mercy,” as it serves up a killer Janis Joplin vibe complete with White and the boys tearing through a Big Brother & the Holding Company-like jam.

Lynn is pictured on the CD case leaning against a craggy old oak tree, sporting an out-dated and ghastly-colored wedding gown and brandishing her signature six-string guitar. It looks like an album cover straight out of the Sun Records vaults. Thank God the songs share some of this moth-ball nostalgia. Marc Greilsamer of Amazon.com notes that this radiant collaboration pits “artists from two different musical universes to forge a memorable work that neither could have created alone.” How, I ask, can you resist that? 

~Red Rocker 


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