As I listen to Loretta Lynn’s latest album Still Woman Enough and prepare to write about it for this publication, I know that personally, it’s probably going to be the most emotional review I will ever write. There are currently tears in my eyes as I am typing these words because I can’t hear Loretta sing without thinking about my mother and the struggles and heartbreaks that she faced as her thirty-year-old marriage to my father fell apart due largely to my dad’s sexual infidelities.
I was the youngest of the six children that the union produced and a large portion of my formative years was spent witnessing and experiencing the heart-wrenching battles over their separation and subsequent divorce. Money was always tight in our household after their split due largely to the criminally low child support payments for me and my brother that my dad was able to secure in court, and there were always copious amounts of jagged emotional outbursts, screaming, and pleading that I was privy to as a young boy because of it.
Magically and gloriously shining in this atmosphere, there was also a lot of Loretta singing in the background as it was all occurring sounding like feminine strength personified. She was my mom’s favorite country singer and her songs, some of which are included herein in a new form in this collection are forever emblazoned on my mind as testaments of emotional honesty, resilience, and self-worth. They were literal lifelines to my mother and countless other women when they originally appeared and I believe they are even now.
I believe that my mom loved Loretta so much partly because of their shared rural heritage (my mom was born in Laurel County, Kentucky) and partly because she spoke directly and truthfully to her in her songs about their shared experiences as a wife and a mother, and about how tough it was being a woman in America in the 1950s through the 1970s and beyond.
In this new collection, which shares the title with her 2002 autobiography that she co-wrote with her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell, Lynn brilliantly gives us a powerful, if tiny, representation of her storied career by first including a new composition “Still Woman Enough” (recorded with Reba McIntire and Carrie Underwood) and reworkings of some of her other classic compositions “Honky Tonk Girl”(originally from 1960), “You Ain’t Woman Enough” (originally from 1966 and recorded here with Tanya Tucker), “My Love” ( originally from 1968), “I Wanna Be Free” (originally from 1971), and a poignant recitation of her most famous song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (originally from 1970).
Along with these Lynn also includes a reworking of the Shel Silverstein penned classic and giant hit for her in 1971“One’s On The Way”(recorded here with Margo Price), interpretations of the traditional Americana classics “Keep On the Sunny Side” and “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” (two songs popularized by Mother Maybelle and The Carter Family), the Stephen Foster folk standard “My Old Kentucky Home”, the Hank Williams classic “I Saw The Light”, and the country gospel classics “I Don’t Feel At Home Anymore” and “Where No One Stands Alone”.
All of them serve to demonstrate an encapsulated view of Lynn’s superior and enormous talent and unmatched ability to musically relate to and communicate the personal, private, emotional, and spiritual lives of women everywhere.
More than that it also gives the listener a captivating and powerful taste of why she will always be considered one of American music’s all-time great storytellers, a precious national treasure capable of reaching across all generations and genders with her message of dignity, hope, and courage.
I, for one, as a man from Cincinnati, Ohio who has cherished her songs his entire life, through tear-filled eyes can only say at this album’s end – God Bless You, Loretta Lynn, for providing musical solace, love, and comfort to women like my mother and to women all around the world. Long may you reign my Queen of country music. Long may you reign.
Still Woman Enough (Sony Legacy) by Loretta Lynn was produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash and is now available on her website .