- 26 Mar 21
Still Wearing The Crown
This record, according to the press release, “celebrates women in country music” and Loretta Lynn, who turns a sprightly 89 in April, has certainly done more than most to put a distinctly female voice and point of view in the venerable old institution of C&W. A major artist, she wrote and released songs that dealt with subject matter that others steered well clear of, like ‘Rated X’ about the branding of divorced women, ‘Dear Uncle Sam’ about losing a husband to war, released as the war in Vietnam raged, and you can probably guess what she sang about in ‘The Pill’ - you can go looking for a better couplet than "This old maternity dress I've got is goin' in the garbage, the clothes I'm wearin' from now on won't take up so much yardage" but you won't find it. Several records were banned by conservative country radio stations, but you always got the feeling that Ms Loretta didn’t give a goddamn, and an awful lot of them hit the top of the charts regardless.
If you're looking for a recommendation then you can't go wrong with Honky Tonk Girl: The Loretta Lynn Collection, which even finds room for the near-genius duet with Conway Twitty, 'You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly', a song that is every bit as good as its title suggests.
There are an awful lot of great records with the words 'Loretta Lynn' on the front of them - not least her excellent, Grammy-winning 2004 collaboration with Jack White, Van Lear Rose - and the main reason that they're great is that honest voice, the voice of an artist who lived what she was writing about. Lynn, born Loretta Webb, was married at fifteen, with a baby on the way soon after, and her husband - Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn - enjoyed a`drink or seven, as well as the company of other women. Against all the odds, they stayed together until his death in 1996. Doo, as he was known, was the man who bought Lynn her first guitar and encouraged her to do what she did, but he was also the man who was warned, 'Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)'.
On Still Woman Enough - and it would take a special kind of fool to doubt that title's claim - Lynn revisits some of those marvellous songs that made her name, re-recording the single that started it all off back in 1960, ‘I’m A Honky Tonk Girl’, the great 1966 number two hit ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)’ with the help of Tanya Tucker, a gorgeous ‘My Love’, and a defiant ‘I Wanna Be Free’. The hard realism of 'One's On The Way', which hit the top slot fifty years ago, could have been written last week, and it's fitting that it features the great Margo Price, who's another woman who refuses to even think about taking any bullshit from anybody. On another tack altogether is the stark banjo-driven spoken word revisiting of the 1970 country number one, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, with a final line “nothing lives here anymore, except the memory of a coal miner’s daughter” that’ll break your heart.
The Hank Williams, Stephen Foster, and Carter Family numbers – ‘I Saw The Light’, ‘Old Kentucky Home’, and ‘Keep On The Sunny Side’ - are as great as you might expect, but it’s the likes of title track, sung with Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood, that dispel any ridiculous notion that Lynn might be resting on past glories. You'd have to mention Patsy, and Tammy, and Dolly in any discussion on the subject, but Loretta would be up on that podium too, as one of the absolute Queens of country music, and Still Woman Enough proves that she's still very much got it.