Review: Loretta Lynn’s vocals and feisty spirit still strong

Kristin M. Hall
The Associated Press

Loretta Lynn, “Wouldn’t It Be Great” (Sony Legacy)

Loretta Lynn, now 86, hasn’t been touring since she suffered a stroke in 2017, but the Kentucky singer-songwriter’s creative output remains strong on her new album, “Wouldn’t It Be Great.”

For years, Lynn has been recording her extensive catalog of songs with producing help from John Carter Cash and her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, ensuring that her legacy as one of America’s greatest songwriters and singers will continue for the next generation even as she’s had to slow down her public appearances. Recorded before her stroke, the album was delayed a year as she focused on her physical health.

The collection of Lynn-penned songs stays true to the country music icon’s favored subject matters, from love, heartaches, drunk husbands and angry women, but also family and spirituality.

Half new songs and half previously recorded, her high Appalachian vocals are unmistakably clear and refreshing with simple bluegrass and acoustic instrumentation that highlights the lyric and storytelling behind her nearly 60-year career. For a woman who has outlived her husband, as well as some of her children, her loneliness and pain is heartbreaking on a song like “I’m Dying for Someone to Live For.”

“Ruby’s Stool” sounds like a companion to her classic “Fist City,” as Lynn’s feisty side comes out in a barroom dispute with another woman. “Wouldn’t It Be Great” is a sorrowful plea to her late husband Doolittle to give up drinking for the sake of their relationship and contains little gems of simple and personal writing, such as “love went to waste when my sexy lace couldn’t turn your face.”

On “Ain’t No Time to Go,” Lynn tenderly sings with just a soft banjo plucking in the background to “stay with me a little bit longer.” It feels like a promise to her fans that she’s got much more to say if they keep listening.