After a nearly yearlong setback from a stroke, Loretta Lynn released her latest album, Wouldn’t It Be Great, this past Friday, Sept. 28th; It was everything a Lynn fan could hope for, and more. The album features 13 songs, with a welcome mix of new material, like the title track and “Ruby’s Stool,” and updated classics, like her hallmark “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’.” Those who are diehard, old-fashioned classic country fans can rest assured that Lynn compromises none of her usual flair and style in her latest release, preserving both her own musical integrity and the history and culture of the classic country genre as a whole.
A master of her craft, Lynn’s album is like a warm welcome home, never losing the characteristic twang or no-nonsense candor of the genre. Yet while every song has a distinctive sense of familiarity, from Lynn’s usual sass in “Ruby Stool” to the lonesome cry of “I’m Dying for Someone to Live For,” the material never feels lazy or reused. Rising to stardom much later in life — already a wife and mother by the time she was a household name — Lynn broke barriers by writing songs about her experiences as a housewife. Her blunt honesty and oddly matched innocence made her songs stand out in a genre dominated by the same rough-and-tough men she sang of in her music. Lynn touched upon everything from her marital conflicts with her husband, Oliver “Doo” Lynn, in songs such as “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’,” to showing her feisty personality and the feminine perspective, in songs like “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”
Once again, Lynn’s songs hit home in her new album. Lynn’s opening song “Wouldn’t it be Great” is almost chilling, the repetition of the lyrics emphasizing the underlying sense of bitterness and loss as Lynn laments love lost to vice. Lynn’s inspiration came primarily from her own life and relationships — an acknowledgement that makes her song even more cutting. Lines such as: “The bottle took my place, love went to waste” transcend beyond the genre and the artist, and prove to be a stark reminder of how the intimacy of Lynn’s music captures the hearts and minds of millions. “Ruby Stool” brings some relief as Lynn is pitted against a troublesome young rival, and defiantly decides to put her in her place by “sittin’ on Ruby’s stool” — a song reminiscent of her classic “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Finally, “Darkest Day,” “The Big Man” and “These Old Blues” harken to the heyday of classic country, reminiscent of both Lynn’s earlier career hits and those of her contemporaries.
Lynn branches out stylistically with songs like “God Makes No Mistakes,” where her age and experience are more tangible in her somber reflection on the cruelties of life in reconciliation with her faith. “Ain’t No Time To Go” similarly displays a heavier, more weary tone in its intro and subject matter, addressing the idea of losing a partner or loved one and having to live on without them — a possible reference to the death of Lynn’s first husband, whom she had been married to since she was 13 years old. These songs strike a strong contrast to feisty numbers like “Ruby’s Stool” and previous hits like “Honky Tonk Girl” — both of which capitalized on Lynn’s image as a spirited young woman. While Lynn doesn’t show any hint of slowing down, these songs convey a distinct change in style brought on by her long life and advancing age. Much of her album focuses on central themes of loss and running out of time, with some songs in her album reminiscent of the legendary Johnny Cash’s later recording sessions. However, Lynn avoids the bone-weary attitude of Cash in her album, instead matching her powerful voice with the sense of self-reflection that comes from experience.
The album ends with Lynn’s crowd-pleasers “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Lynn shows that despite the years that have past, she’s never lost her touch. Her revamp of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” stays true to the original, with a slightly brighter tune from a busier instrumentation — a change which adds a subtle touch of modernity without losing the true spirit of the song. Often referred to simply as The Coal Miner’s Daughter, the album’s finale is a testament to Lynn’s career, and reminds the world that Loretta Lynn isn’t going anywhere just yet. As Lynn sings “Well a lot of things have changed since way-back-when” it feels as if she has come full-circle, a reflection on her career, which spanned decades, and going back even farther to the young girl from Butcher’s Hollow who had never dreamed of such stardom. Just as Lynn wrote herself, “It’s so good to be back home again,” her album certainly feels like a homecoming. But, more importantly, the survival of Lynn’s career into the 21st century can also be seen as a beacon of hope — a rallying point — for the struggling working class of Coal Country, U.S.A. While this Coal Miner’s Daughter stands loud and proud, so too can the communities of rural Appalachia retain their own pride and dignity in an era that wishes to forget them.