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Loretta Lynn

Van Lear Rose

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-05-17


It has probably been a decade or two since a new Loretta Lynn album got the kind of attention that Van Lear Rose is garnering. Why? Well, the CD’s superstar producer, Jack White of the White Stripes, certainly helps, but the truth is that White’s presence is only a hook: Van Lear Rose is simply a darn good album. Like most country stars of her era, Lynn’s later albums have suffered from overproduction. White ditches the schmaltz and focuses on the heartbreak, showcasing Lynn’s lyrics and distinctive vocals with stripped down, stick-to-the-basics arrangements. Sometimes, the music veers off into slightly more adventurous territory for Lynn: the R & B stomper “Have Mercy” wouldn’t sound out of place coming from Laverne Baker, and “Portland Oregon” even recalls Led Zeppelin in parts. There’s also an interesting spoken word track called “Little Red Shoes.” Lynn easily keeps up with the stylistic swings; there’s never any doubt that, however famous her producer, Lynn is in charge, and Van Lear Rose is her album. Van Lear Rose probably has more distortion and cranky guitars than your average country album, but at its core it’s still a country album, so there’s plenty of sad mamas, cryin’ babies, daddies up to all kinds of things, and “trash” tryin’ to steal someone’s man. Some people simply won’t get past that (and to be honest, there are one or two clunkers here). But there are plenty of people who will welcome the chance to sink their teeth into meatier country fare, and plenty of music fans who’ll enjoy hearing Lynn in such good form. As for producer Jack White, his presence is noted, but not too intrusive. What could have been a record company gimmick sounds like a true collaboration between an artist raring to do her own thing, and a fan eager to show her at her best.

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