Picture of Loretta Lynn Loretta Lynn remains one of the all-time great hick music artists, a country gal who kept her twang while topping the charts over several decades. Lynn came by her country roots the hard way... Her long road from rural poverty to international stardom is well documented, notably in the film, Coal Miner's Daughter. Loretta's triumph in mid-1960s Nashville coincided with the rise of the much-dreaded "Nashville Sound," but unlike her many contemporaries, Lynn stuck to a pared-down, backwoods sound. Like Buck Owens at the same time, she came to embody country's rural roots, and while she weathered the rise of '70s countrypolitan and the '80s synth-pop craze largely by softening her sound, she still has kept a recognizable, human face on her music.

Here's a quick look at her career... (Bear with me, as it'll take me a while to drag all my old albums out and give 'em a listen...) Of special note are her duet albums with craggy old Ernest Tubb and sly, sinuous Conway Twitty...



Albums

Loretta Lynn "Here's Loretta Lynn" (Vocalion, 1968)
(Produced by Don Grashey)

Here are Loretta's first recordings, all mighty fine hard country material. Although this LP came out five years after Loretta's "debut," the tracks were actually recorded back in 1960, in a West Coast session that included hotshot pickers such as Roy Lanham and Speedy West, as well as fiddler Harold Hensley, who gave her an appropriately twangy backing. A half-dozen of the tracks came out as singels on the diminutive Zero label, but the rest of the songs didn't see the light of day until '68, and are still pretty hard to track down today. Definitely worth looking for!


Loretta Lynn "Loretta Lynn Sings" (Decca, 1963) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Before I'm Over You" (Decca, 1964) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Songs From My Heart" (Decca, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Blue Kentucky Girl" (Decca, 1965)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Hymns" (Decca, 1965)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Ernest Tubb "Mr. And Mrs. Used To Be" (Decca, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)

A historic summit meeting between two of the biggest unreconstructed hick singers of the 'Sixties... Ol' ET lent a helping hand to newcomer Loretta Lynn and recorded this series of duets with her, material that's markedly different than practically anything else he ever did... The music is slightly more modern than his standard-issue Tubb-style honkytonk, and it's kind of cool to hear him singing with someone else for a change. These two don't always mesh, it's true -- Tubb's vocal style is so static and brittle, it's hard for him to really wrap himself around anyone else's voice, and the differences in age and energy levels are readily apparent. Where they do intersect, however, is in their shared true-country vibe, and in the good-natured spirit with which they approached the project. They both seem to have enjoyed working together a lot, and that good humor radiates through on all the songs. There's some good material, as well, and overall this is a pretty fun record. Good enough to merit two follow-up albums and one double-LP set that gathered the best of these tracks...


Loretta Lynn "I Like 'Em Country" (Decca, 1966)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)

A tribute to classic country music, with Loretta covering songs by Carl Butler, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and others, along with some newer stuff such as a couple of Betty Sue Perry songs and Loretta's own "Uncle Sam." Sounds like a good plan, though in all honesty, some of the cover songs are a bit lethargic, such as her cover of "Your Cheatin' Heart," which slumps along forlornly and ignores the insistent downbeat of the original. Her vocals are earthy and rich, but the record starts to sound a little same-y after a while.


Loretta Lynn "You Ain't Woman Enough" (Decca, 1966)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Ernest Tubb "Singin' Again" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "A Country Christmas" (Decca, 1966)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)

A mighty fine, pleasantly understated set of Christmas standards and a few new yuletide ballads. Loretta does this stuff up right. Sadly, when the CD reissue came out (as Christmas Without Daddy...) it omitted several of the album's best songs, notably "To Heck With Ole Santa Claus," which, along with "Country Christmas," was the real heart of this album when it first came out. Still, this is a nice set, well worth checking out if you want some really down-home cheer.


Loretta Lynn "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' " (Decca, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Singin' With Feelin' " (Decca, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Who Says God Is Dead?" (Decca, 1968)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Fist City" (Decca, 1968) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Your Squaw Is On The Warpath Tonight" (Decca, 1969)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Woman Of The World/To Make A Man" (Decca, 1969) (LP) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Ernest Tubb "If We Put Our Heads Together" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Loretta Lynn Writes 'Em And Sings 'Em" (Decca, 1970) (LP) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "We Only Make Believe" (Decca, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "I Wanna Be Free" (Decca, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "You're Lookin' At Country" (Decca, 1971) (LP) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Lead Me On" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "One's On The Way" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "God Bless America Again" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Alone With You" (Vocalion, 1972) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "Here I Am Again" (Decca, 1972) (LP) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Entertainer Of The Year" (MCA, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (MCA, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Love Is The Foundation" (MCA, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Country Partners" (MCA, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "They Don't Make 'Em Like Daddy Anymore" (MCA, 1974) (LP) *
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Back To The Country" (MCA, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Home" (MCA, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "When The Tingle Becomes A Chill" (MCA, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Somebody Somewhere" (MCA, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & The Coalminers "On The Road With..." (Loretta Lynn, 1976) (LP)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Feelin's" (MCA, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "United Talent" (MCA, 1976)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "I Remember Patsy" (MCA, 1977)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Dynamic Duo" (MCA, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn "Out Of My Head And Back In My Bed" (MCA, 1978)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Honky Tonk Heroes" (MCA, 1978) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "I Lie" (MCA, 1982)


Loretta Lynn "We've Come A Long Way, Baby" (MCA, 1979)


Loretta Lynn "Loretta" (MCA, 1980)


Loretta Lynn "Lookin' Good" (MCA, 1980)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Two's A Party" (MCA, 1981)


Loretta Lynn "I Lie" (MCA, 1982) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "Making Love From Memory" (MCA, 1982)


Loretta Lynn "Lyin', Cheatin', Woman Chasin', Honky Tonkin', Whiskey Drinkin' You" (MCA, 1983) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "Just A Woman" (MCA, 1985) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "Live From The Wheeling Jamboree" (Loretta Lynn Records, 1986) (LP)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Making Believe" (MCA, 1988)


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "Diamond Duet" (MCA, 1988) (LP)


Loretta Lynn "Who Was That Stranger" (MCA, 1989)


Loretta Lynn "I'll Just Call You Darlin' " (MCA, 1989)


Loretta Lynn "Peace In The Valley" (MCA, 1990)


Loretta Lynn "The Old Rugged Cross" (MCA, 1992)


Loretta Lynn/Dolly Parton/Tammy Wynette "Honky Tonk Angels" (Columbia, 1993)
(Produced by Steve Buckingham)

Three grand dames of the '60s country scene unite for a sweetly produced set of cover tunes and oldies, with a musical formula much like the Dolly-Emmylou-Linda "Trio" albums. Producer Steve Buckingham does a workmanlike job on this one -- it's relatively understated (which I guess is good), though also not that adventurous. This never really catches fire, but there are some nice moments, such as Loretta's "Wouldn't It Be Great" and Dolly's gospel-tinged "Let Her Fly," as well as the disc's sole single, a rollicking, irresistible version of "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" that has an admittedly county-fair quality to it, but still is pretty durn catchy.


Loretta Lynn "Loretta Lynn" (Columbia River, 1997)


Loretta Lynn "All Time Gospel Favorites" (Madacy, 1998)


Loretta Lynn "Still Country" (Audium/Koch, 2000)
...As if she could ever be anything else! It's funny: Loretta's voice has changed a lot over the years. Here, she's scarcely recognizable as the hillbilly filly who recorded "Fist City" and "You're Looking At Country," but paradoxically the deepening and thickening of tones has given her mature voice a sound that actually sounds younger than it did back then, even like that of an inexperienced newcomer. It's nice to hear there's still a lot of kick left in the old gal, although to tell the truth, this isn't her strongest album ever... There's one solid country novelty song on here, "Table For Two," which would be a classic today if it'd been recorded three decades earlier, but the rest of the songs strain at the edges. Musically, the album's pretty solid, with direction by Randy Scruggs (and a lick or two on the banjo by his daddy, Earl...) but somehow it fails to catch fire on all but a few tunes. Worth checking out if you're a Loretta loyalist... and despite being nonplussed overall, I'm still gonna keep my copy.


Loretta Lynn "Somebody Somewhere" (Columbia River, 2001)


Loretta Lynn "Van Lear Rose" (Interscope, 2003)
Wow. I mean, I was extremely skeptical about this record, what with all the going into it -- the mighty Loretta hooking up with Jack White of the White Stripes, a neo-garagepop band that I've found to be a little on the not-so-interesting side, and letting him repackage her ala Johnny Cash's American Recordings makeover. Plus, Loretta's career -- and her voice -- had seemed to peter out in recent years, so I was worried she'd sound to old and adrift in whatever production they erected around her. Sounded like a hipsterized recipe for disaster to me, but I figured I still hadda check it out. What I wasn't prepared for was how far "out there" she'd go, with a full-on embrace of soft-edged garage-a-billy, with a tune or two that made her sound like Wanda Jackson. Loretta's voice is also in fine shape here (yay) and the White Stripes provide a loose but surprisingly forceful backup. For one thing, guitarist Dave Feeny is a lousy steel player... But then again, it's obvious he isn't really trying to match the kind of fancy licks the Nashville studio cats can come up with, and in an odd way his undisciplined, careening accompaniment is entirely appropriate and helps set the tone for this freewheeling project. They play some fairly straightforward country stuff as well, and Lynn rambles through some familiar themes, of growing up in rural poverty, more autobiographical stuff about life in the holler, etc. Honestly, I think she lays it on kinda thick, but then again that's nothing new. I still like this album... a lot. The highlight song for me is her rambling recitation, "Little Red Shoes," though several of the regular songs, including the title track, are also pretty good. Definitely worth checking out.




Best-Ofs

Loretta Lynn "Greatest Hits" (Decca, 1968)


Loretta Lynn & Ernest Tubb "The Ernest Tubb/Loretta Lynn Story" (MCA, 1973) (LP)
This fab 2-LP set collects the best material from the three albums ET and Loretta did together... Their duets didn't always click, so this may be more material than the average country fan might need... Then again, how much more "country" and down to earth could you get than these two? I'd be nice if the record label folks could put this one out again someday...


Loretta Lynn "Greatest Hits, v.2" (MCA, 1974)


Loretta Lynn "The Best Of Loretta Lynn" (MCA, 1976)


Loretta Lynn "Christmas Without Daddy" (Decca/MCA, 1966)
An almost-straight reissue of the 1966 A Country Chistmas album... A mighty fine, pleasantly understated set of Christmas standards and a few new yuletide ballads. Loretta does this stuff up right. Sadly, though, the CD reissue omits several of the album's best songs, notably "To Heck With Ole Santa Claus," which, along with "Country Christmas," was the real heart of this album when it first came back, way back when. Still, this is a nice set, well worth checking out if you want some really down-home cheer.


Loretta Lynn "Country Music Hall Of Fame Series" (MCA, 1991)
A for-real country girl, Loretta Lynn came from a poor working class family, and made her slow climb into the Nashville stratosphere in the early '60s. Like Buck Owens, Lynn combined an undeniable hick authenticity with an unfailing sense of what what kind of punchy novelty tunes would take hold in the new world of rock'n'roll. Songs like "Fist City," "You Ain't Woman Enough" and "Your Squaw Is On The Warpath" cemented Loretta's place in the popular imagination; she later made up for these admittedly sexist ditties with a series of sexually frank songs made in the late '60s and early '70s, such as "The Pill" and "Rated X," which gave a more nuanced look at the war between the sexes. This single disc may not be enough to do her justice, but still a pretty solid collection, sticking to her early stuff on Decca, which remains her best work. There are lots of Loretta best-ofs which have come out since, but this disc won't disappoint you.


Loretta Lynn "Honky Tonk Girl: The Loretta Lynn Collection" (MCA, 1994)
This 3-CD set really has it all, including a couple of songs from Loretta's early indie work (which was later licenced by Decca), to her smash '60s hits and gorgeously goofy 70s/80s duets with Conway Twitty, and her later, sorta-politan pop-country records. Might be too much for a casual listener, but for anyone so inclinded, you'd be hard pressed to find better country music anywhere. Hardcore fans may quibble, but since MCA is unlikely to reissue all her original albums anytime soon, this box set should remain definitive for most country fans. Recommended!


Loretta Lynn "The Millennium Collection, v.1" (MCA, 1999)


Loretta Lynn "The Millennium Collection, v.2" (MCA, 2001)


Loretta Lynn "All Time Greatest Hits" (MCA-Universal, 2002)
A nice overview which ranges from her perky early work to her deliciously syrupy duets with Conway Twitty. If you're only searching for a comprehensive look at her early hits, this might not have enough of what you want, but for a more complete picture of Loretta's career, this 22-track best-of is pretty swell. Recommended!


Loretta Lynn "The Definitive Collection" (Universal/MCA-Decca, 2005)
A fine, 25-song best-of that overlaps with other Loretta collections (including a few duets with Conway Twitty... "Definitive" is definitely a relative term, here, especially considering how thorough and gratifying the old, 4-CD Honky Tonk Girl box set has proven over the years. Still, this is a great introduction to her work, and dips into some of her later work from 1975-onwards, stuff that doesn't readily come to mind when you're thinking of Loretta's glory years, but that still holds up nicely today. They seem to have omitted "Your Squaw Is On The Warpath" (presumably because of PC cultural sensitivity concerns) but the rest of the songs on here are of at least equal calibre to that old chestnut. Other best-ofs may serve you equally well, but this disc is also first-class.


Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty "The Very Best Of Loretta And Conway" (MCA, 1979)


Loretta Lynn "The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn" (MCA, 2000)


Loretta Lynn "The Christmas Collection" (MCA Nashville/Universal Chronicles, 2005)
She's long been the gold standard of hillbilly pop authenticity, and Loretta Lynn's 1966 Country Christmas album, a perrennial favorite reissued here in its entirety, is one mighty fine yuletide offering... Loretta sings country classics like "Blue Christmas," "Christmas Without Daddy" and ""To Heck With Old Santa Claus," alongside pop standards such as "Silver Bells," "White Christmas" and "Frosty The Snowman." Although the whole album is good -- and I mean really good -- surprisingly enough it's on the non-hick tunes where she really shines -- even thhough she keeps her twang intact, you really get a good sense of just how strong a singer she really is. Lynn also penned several of these songs, including the album's opener, "Country Christmas," a bouncy tune that is definitely an album highlight. Great country music with just the right kind of Christmas cheer -- not too syrupy while completely sincere. Recommended!


Loretta Lynn "Your Squaw Is One The Warpath/Fist City" (Raven, 2011)
Although there are a bazillion Loretta Lynn best-ofs out there, few of her actual albums have been released in full on CD. This twofer set pairs up two of her 'Sixties classics, Your Squaw Is One The Warpath, from 1969, and Fist City, from '68, as well as some tracks from 1970's Loretta Lynn Writes 'Em And Sings 'Em. Wow. Vintage hardcore country-pop from one of Nashville's great neotrad artists. Highly recommended!


Loretta Lynn "Blue Kentucky Girl/I Like Em Country" (Raven, 2013)
A handy reissue of two classic, vintage Loretta albums, 1965's Blue Kentucky Girl, and I Like Em Country, from 1966. This delicious disc joins Raven's other twofer releases, pure catnip for old-school country fans... Meow!




Tribute Albums & Related Records

Various Artists "THE WILBURN BROTHERS SHOW" (Decca, 1966)
A live, or semi-live album, with Loretta appearing along with the Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb and banjoist Harold Morrison.


Sonny Wright "I Love You Loretta Lynn" (Kapp, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Walter Haynes)

Interestingly enough, although the debut album of country second-stringer Sonny Wright was a Loretta Lynn tribute album, and while he toured in her band and professed his affections for Loretta, in reality Wright married her little sister, singer Peggy Sue. Overall, this is a pretty lackluster album, with sleepy arrangements and cover versions that are mostly pretty close to the originals, with a couple of gender-flipped remakes such as "Blue Kentucky Boy" and "Your Chief's On The Warpath Tonight." That one, like the album's opener, "I Come Home A-Drinkin'," takes a fairly mean-spirited slant on the whole war-of-the-sexes theme -- hearing some dude complain about how his woman won't put out when he comes home hammered doesn't quite have the same charm as the feminist theme of the original hit. The title track is okay, but again, kind of snoozy. Nothing charted from this album... not too hard to see why. Loretta wrote some nice, supportive liner notes.


The Lynns "The Lynns" (Reprise, 1998)
Loretta's daughters, Patsy and Peggy Lynn, don't exactly have Mom's arresting, charismatic presence, but they do sound nice enough and have a traditional bent that's pleasant to hear (although it does tend to get obscured in some fairly generic, Foster & Lloyd-ish pop-country arrangements). Their family harmony sound brings to mind the Judds (although the Lynns sound more legitimately bluesy...) but also leaves one of the sisters (not sure which one) overshadowed by the other. Not stellar, but I bet with the right producer, these gals could sound real cool.


Loretta Lynn/Various Artists "COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER: A TRIBUTE TO LORETTA LYNN" (Sony, 2010)
The great Loretta Lynn, the indisputable grand dame of classic country, presides over her own tribute album, with contributors including Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Allison Moorer, Carrie Underwood, The White Stripes, Lucinda Williams, Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack and others... It's a class act, kids!




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