Van Lear Rose – Loretta Lynn
Sometimes lightning does strike twice as this musical scenario of
creative dj vu hits paydirt. Similar to how a young buck revived a country legend’s career, ala
producer Rick Rubin with Johnny Cash, the White Stripes’ Jack White does the same
with Loretta Lynn on Van Lear Rose. Just like it took a producer of rock albums
to allow Cash to follow his musical passions, it’s another swipe at the
Nashville establishment that the alt-rock favorite, White, rather than someone
within the country genre, is able to make the right creative moves to make Lynn
significant among her peers as well as young rock fans.
It’s no surprise that he’s done this, since the White Stripes’ 2001
release, White Blood Cells is dedicated to Lynn.
As producer, arranger and player on Van Lear Rose, White leads a lethal
and sympathetic back up band that can lazily swing with the feel of a
pre-rock ‘n’ roll recording or give a number a gritty immediacy that threatens to,
but never does, overtake the vocals of Lynn.
The musical shifts come quickly among the first three numbers. The title
track, "Portland, Oregon" and "Trouble on the Line," define the
template of sweet country and down-n-dirty country rock that the ensuing 13
tracks follow. The opening musical salvos give the impression of some lost Rolling
Stones’ backing tracks from Their Satanic Majesties Request or Sticky Fingers
or even Exile on Main St. "Portland, Oregon," a duet between Lynn and White,
rocks hard in a manner that’s totally unexpected for a 68 year-old country
While I’ve been praising his contributions, all the credit cannot go to
White. Lynn has written a baker’s dozen worth of songs that balance
sentimentality for the past with a contemporary sense of empowerment.
Now, I’m guessing that many of you have the same skeleton knowledge of
Lynn’s career as I do — name recognition, knowing "Coal Miner’s Daughter" as a
song, autobiography and film starring Sissy Spacek. And the reason I bring this
up is that I doubt I’d be jumping for joy in regards to a Loretta Lynn
release, but this deserves all the praise it receives. Don’t let your preconceptions
ruin your pleasure.