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Coal Miner's Daughter strikes gold

Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
(Interscope Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 6, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

At 70-years old, country music legend Loretta Lynn sounds as if she's just getting started. That's because on her latest album Van Lear Rose she mixes old school Kentucky country music with some of the invigorating sensibilities of early rock 'n' roll without ever sounding nostalgic, trite or forced.
Lynn is just one in a long line of aging American musicians that have found the perfect muse to re-inspire their careers -some which have been pot-marked with almost as many low points as highs. On Bob Dylan's last album Love and Theft, the artist opened up the great American songbook to draw from, while Dolly Parton turned to the earthy bluegrass music that she started singing when she was just a girl. Not unlike Johnny Cash, who had producer Rick Rubin pull the raw, sinning saint still brooding from within for his brilliant American Recording albums, Grande Ole Opry superstar Loretta Lynn has also found the perfect producer. Jack White, from the rock band The White Stripes, has given the coal miner's daughter the perfect palette for her rich compositions and heartfelt vocals.
While White is certainly no stranger to rock (he was, after all, one of the catalysts to jumpstart the recent garage rock revival), the young musician is just as well versed in America's fertile music of the entire last century. Along with his musical partner, Meg White, Jack's been known to cover songs from artists as diverse as Son House, Blind Willie McTell and Dolly Parton. He's also never kept his feelings for Lynn under wraps, as proven by one of The White Stripes' live staples - a rousing cover of Lynn's "Rated X" song. The Detroit duo also dedicated their 2002 breakthrough album White Blood Cells to the country legend as well.
On Van Lear Rose White didn't influence Lynn as much as merely pull the greatness that was hiding just below the surface. With an album filled with soulful country numbers ("Family Tree," "Miss Being Mrs." and "Van Lear Rose"), dust-kicking rockers that reek of the nicotine-stained pegboard walls of Sun Studios in the late '50s ("Have Mercy" and "Mrs. Leroy Brown") and a playful country number that sums up her life in under four minutes ("Story Of My Life"), Lynn and White have produced one of the most compelling comeback albums from any country musician.
The compositions themselves are some of the strongest in Lynn's forty-some year career and her voice still sounds as sweet and sturdy as fresh honey dripping down the trunk of an old Oak tree. Amid pedal steel and slide guitars on "Family Tree" her warm voice greets its listeners with a loving embrace, while her duet with White on "Portland Oregon" embodies much of the feel and pride of the Old South.
Despite a rough life, filled with loss, hardships and remorse, Van Lear Rose showcases the tough spirit and giant heart that took a young country girl from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky and made her a worldwide superstar.

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