Van Lear Rose
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Loretta Lynn "Van Lear Rose" Produced and Arranged by Jack White of the White Stripes
Garage-rock hero Jack White producing honky-tonk legend Loretta Lynn? And Lynn comparing him to renowned Nashville producer Owen Bradley? Yes, we all know the world is rapidly shrinking, but now we've seen everything. Most stunning of all--they nailed it. For the first time, Lynn has written all of an album's songs, and her lyrics are as cutting and incisive as ever. On the powerful, biting "Family Tree," she brings her babies to the home of her husband's mistress so that they can see the "woman that's burning down our family tree." Throughout she cunningly tackles tried-and-true honky-tonk themes of love gone bad, drinkin', cheatin', and murder. Lynn even offers a compelling slice of theological fatalism ("God Makes No Mistakes"). White's production--mostly stark and atmospheric--ranges from more-traditional country to straight-up White Stripes, with most tracks falling somewhere in between. White duets with Lynn on the rousing one-night-stand story "Portland, Oregon," but he does not need to sing to leave his personal stamp. At 70, Lynn seems thoroughly engaged and delighted; at times she delivers some of the most emotionally potent singing of her career. A decade earlier, Johnny Cash turned to rock and rap producer Rick Rubin, and the move resuscitated Cash's career. Now, Jack White has done the same for Loretta Lynn, another country legend whose music is simply too raw and honest for the contemporary country crowd. Van Lear Rose exceeds all expectations--a bold collaboration in which artists from two different musical universes forge a memorable work that neither could have created alone. --Marc GreilsamerSee all Editorial Reviews
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Much has been made of the fact that Jack White from the White Stripes produced this album, and also plays guitar and sings on a few tracks. Certainly, his stamp is obvious on some of louder, electric tracks --- ones that I'm not sure that longtime fans of Loretta will enjoy or appreciate --- but his influence on most of the other tracks is not as heavy-handed and he pretty much allows Loretta to do her thing. And she shines. Simply put, this is a fun, joyous album, showcasing a singer who could benefit from more exposure outside the confines of the country genre. That said, I'm not sure that most White Stripes fans are going to be loving this one, but if they keep an open mind --- and ears --- then hopefully they'll find this one to their liking. Some fantastic songs on this album. Where is the followup?
I had never bought a Loretta Lynn CD before (though I have always admired her), but a glowing review in Rolling Stone prompted me to pick up a copy. And I must say, this album is simply INCREDIBLE. The CD is comprised of simple, amazing songs bursting with intelligence and beauty without seeming contrived or over-produced. Usually in my reviews, I elaborate on choice tracks, but every song here is as good as the song next to it: The CD ranges from rock-n-roll sonic romps to downhome country, the tracks flow together perfectly, and every song is a big-time winner.
Deftly produced by Jack White, "Van Lear Rose" draws its stength from Lynn's emotions and life experiences, which are allowed to shine against arrangements that complement (not compete with) her formidable voice. Also, the album was recorded on an 8-track, not digitally, which adds to the album's atmosphere and feeling of authenticity.
Okay, now that you have finished reading the review (against earlier instructions), do yourself a favor and buy this CD. Oh, and pick one up for a friend who appreciates amazing music.