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CD Review

Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose

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I admit to a mining cart's worth of pre-listening misgivings about 40-year country music veteran Loretta Lynn's choice of Jack White from The White Stripes to produce and arrange her new album Van Lear Rose. Such a pairing, I figured, was a wrongheaded outgrowth of a contemporary music scene where production credits have become the ultimate status symbol. Luckily, I was wronger'n a cat in love with a horny toad. Not only is Van Lear great throughout, it is at times simply stunning. But is it country? Yes, the album has plenty of lonely pedal-steel lilts and museum-quality country lyrics--alcohol, adultery and a veneration of the impoverished folk living "down in the holler" rule throughout--but don't expect to hear White's arrangements blasting out of any local line-dancing joints. White's version of country music is derived more from The Rolling Stones, particularly Side B of Exile on Main Street, than from any Hanks or Bucks--but that isn't a bad thing. Lynn's voice hangs and twangs so perfectly over the rumbling organ and tom-toms on the shuffling ballads "Trouble on the Line" and "Little Red Shoes" that by album's end it is hard not to feel renewed admiration for both artists. Both Lynn and White fans may find Van Lear baffling but after a few listens it easily stands with the best work of each.

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