Not many times have I stopped listening to a record and immediately thought, “Wow! That is one of the best albums I have ever heard!” Yet, that was the case with Loretta Lynn’s Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose.
Now, as many people know, I am a huge classic country fan. I could sit and listen to the likes of Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton all day. Although I am not a fan of what they call country music today, there are a few artists I like, but they are few and far between.
With this album, I did not hear classic country in the style I love. Instead, it was classic country with a proper update. At times you really can tell Jack White’s alternative influences (“Have Mercy”), but the songs contain much of what real country once had (“Trouble on the Line”). Each song contains elements of what country once was, as well as the gritty stories it once told. Country is not about crashing parties or singing dirt road anthems. It’s about really dirty and sticky situations.
Side Note: This is Loretta Lynn’s first album where she wrote all the songs.
It’s hard for me to pick just a few songs to write about, but here are a few of my favorites.
Track 2 “Portland Oregon”: This is a duet between Lynn and Jack White. It is amazing how two voices from two generations can blend so well. It goes to show the timelessness of music. The song opens with a dramatic instrumental and ends with asking for a pitcher to go.
Track 6 “High on a Mountain Top”: The premise of this song is humility mixed with everything you ever need. Lynn talks about how poor her family was, but how she would never leave that “Mountain Top.” They had “flowers growing wild, God-fearin’ people, and how Uncle Joe would pull out his fiddle.” This song proves money doesn’t mean anything when it comes to happiness.
Track 9: “Women’s Prison”: This is the definition of a classic country story. She found her man cheatin’, she shot him dead, now she’s in prison, and the judge wants her head. She reminds us that the “price of love is high.” This song is also infused with obvious Jack White influences, especially in the chorus.
Lastly, Lynn closes with “Story of My Life.” In this song, Lynn condenses her life in just under 3 minutes, but it tells so much about her. She briskly tells you, like she’s your own grandmother, and that if you listen close, she’ll tell you twice. She talks about her children, music career, marriage, and concludes with how blessed she is.
Lynn and White produced sheer musical brilliance with this album. Only one song talks of a rose, but the whole album is a compilation of stories wrapped in Lynn’s twang through White’s assembly. As I wonder through the Kentucky hills and see the beautiful flowers, this is one bouquet that I would stand out among the rest and, Lord, am I glad I picked it.
Music Video for “Portland, Oregon”