Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Assured and assertive women frequently populated the often-autobiographical songs of country legend Loretta Lynn who, although 89 next month, doesn't look much older than when she recorded the enormously successful Van Lear Rosewith Jack White of the White Stripes in 2004.
That was an important album for White loosening himself from rock. For Lynn it was just another hitching post on a journey from rural poverty as a coal miner's daughter in moonshining Kentucky who, at 14, met her husband Doo who gave her a doll, then four children before she was 20.
“I didn't know what sex was about,” said the woman who would sing adult songs like the self-explanatory Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (with Lovin' On Your Mind), Fist City (about dealing to a woman making eyes at Doo) and The Pill, the latter shocking the conservative, male-dominated country music establishment.
Lynn's new album Still Woman Enough -- her 46thstudio recording – finds her in largely undiminished voice with other women singers (Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker, Margot Price) and revisiting her back-catalogue alongside judiciously chosen material such as Stephen Foster's Old Kentucky Home, Hank Williams' I Saw the Light and the Carter Family's Keep on the Sunny Side, all songs in her spiritual and musical DNA.
As a centrepiece she returns to her signature song of 50 years ago Coal Miner's Daughter, but now as a moving recitation over mournful banjo, its message of poverty with dignity more resonant for its conversational delivery.
The album is less a Loretta tribute – or self-tribute – than an assertion of womanhood, independence, personal history and faith.
The underbelly perspective of the glitzy world beyond domesticity and diapers in Shel Silverstein's One's on the Way from '71 (with Price) may have some dated references but, like a page from Lynn's remarkable life, it resonates as an intuitively instructive observation of class and social division.
On the cover of Still Woman Enough, Loretta Lynn sits regally on a throne, a queen of country still.
Still Woman Enough by Loretta Lynn is available now on Spotify here but also on vinyl at selelcted record stores