CLEVELAND, Ohio – Loretta Lynn’s first studio album in more than 10 years, the aptly named “Full Circle,” isn’t really “new” music, and who cares?
The 14 cuts on the album – including the first song she ever wrote and recorded, “Whispering Sea” – and the DVD “Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl” that was also was released this month are primers on why she was, is and always will be “the first lady of country music.”
The hilarious storytelling introduction to “Whispering Sea” that kicks off the album is vintage Lynn – and it speaks volumes about the way country music has changed since its release in 1960. She’d just been signed to a record deal and had two days – TWO DAYS! – to write a dozen songs for her first album. And she did it.
“Full Circle” includes some other great Lynn-penned cuts – “Fist City” (a personal favorite), “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?” and “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven – as well as traditional Appalachian songs like “”In the Pines” that are able to showcase Lynn’s roots as well as her development.
Produced by her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, and the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, John Carter Cash, the album is a love song to the lady herself and to the legacy of her music.
Even the covers take on new meaning with her distinctive “Butcher Holler” phrasing. I first heard “Secret Love” done by Freddy Fender, but Lynn’s version does more than change the key; it gives the tune new depth, which I wasn’t sure was possible.
I always thought of “Always on My Mind” as a song best-suited to Willie Nelson or Elvis Presley, both of whom had hits with the Johnny Christopher-Mark James-Wayne Carson song. But Lynn transforms it into mountain song. And “Wine Into Water,” about an alcoholic praying for God to “reverse engineer” the biblical miracle, is a tear falling in 4/4 time.
Nelson appears with her on this album in a duet of “Lay Me Down,” and Elvis Costello adds vocals to a new Lynn song, co-written with Todd Snider, called “Everything It Takes.” Both are fitting additions to her legacy.
Lynn and her band will return to Northeast Ohio and the Hard Rock Rocksino on Sunday, April 17, three days after her 86th birthday. Two years ago, she took anadoring sold-out crowd there on a journey into country music’s heyday. Expect the same in April. Grade: A
Chuck Yarborough cleveland.com