Loretta Lynn, “Full Circle”

Loretta_Lynn-2016-Full_Circle_coverLoretta Lynn
Full Circle
SONY LEGACY
7/10

In a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, national treasure Loretta Lynn was prompted on a wide variety of fields (favorite ice cream flavor: vanilla), but the exchange that stood out the most came from the question of whether she had any interesting Jack White stories. Her answer: “I was writing [‘Have Mercy’ and] he didn’t get the song… I said it’s a rock song, and you ought to sing it. It was funny me trying to convince Jack that I wrote a rock song.” Funny, indeed, since you’d be forgiven for assuming that “Have Mercy” was a number that Jack had to convince Loretta to do—not the other way around. The Queen of Country is just that, though, because she’s never been afraid to toe non-country genre lines (it just so happens that she perhaps tends to toe those lines in a square-dance motion).

On Full Circle, Lynn’s first album since 2004’s White-produced Van Lear Rose, the Coal Miner’s Daughter has returned to more traditional fare—but in trademark fashion, almost untraditionally so. The arrangements on this album are tasteful, and in some ways recall early Carter Family, which makes sense given that John Carter Cash produced the years-in-the-making set along with Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Reynolds. The result is a stark collection of mostly standards and classic Lynn tunes (essentially standards themselves at this point) that are heartbreaking in their honesty, overwhelming in their purity.

It’s not all looking back, however. On a few new songs—most notably “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?”—the eighty-three year old asks difficult questions about life, death, and just what in the hell we’re all doing here. These are never easy topics, and despite her speaking with the same conviction as always, she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Who’s gonna miss her, though? As if she really needs to ask.

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