With glowing reviews in magazines such as Blender and Entertainment Weekly, Loretta Lynn’s latest album, Van Lear Rose, is fulfilling her prediction.
During her session work with producer Jack White of the rock duo, the White Stripes, Lynn would hold his hand and say, “This is really gonna shake ’em up.” Judging by the mainstream media attention the album is receiving, she was right.
It all began with a meeting in the Big Apple. “The first time I met him in Manhattan, N.Y., and we worked together, I was telling him I was getting ready to go in and do an album myself,” Lynn told CMT News. “He said, ’Well, could I go in and produce it?’ I said, ’Why not?'”
“I’d play tambourine on this record, if that’s it,” White added. “I don’t care. I just want to be in the same room with her and to be able to work on this.”
White recorded the 13-song album in only 12 days on just eight tracks to keep the music “as real as possible, because that’s what Loretta Lynn is.” Lynn was backed on the sessions by four musicians — Dave Feeny, Patrick Keeler, Jack Lawrence and White — she dubbed the Do Whaters “because they got in there and did whatever we needed them to.”
“He didn’t want a real polished sound,” Lynn said. She added with a laugh, “He didn’t get it either.”
“I didn’t want to overthink it,” White explained. “I didn’t want to push it and try to perfect it. She sounds brilliant right off the bat. Her voice is gorgeous.”
But even Lynn was taken aback by the final outcome of the sound. “I didn’t know it was going to be this country, but it’s country,” Lynn said. “It’s as country as I am.”
Lynn had to make at least one adjustment in her style of recording. After decades in the studio with famed producer Owen Bradley, White wanted to capture the sound of the Coal Miner’s daughter in one take, when possible.
“Owen would always tell you to sing it three or four times to get used to the song,” the singer-songwriter remembered. “Of course, when you’re writing them, you’re already used to them, but Owen just thought you’d sing better after doing it two or three times.”
“I think Jack thought he’d work me to death,” Lynn said. “He don’t know that I work all the time.”
“I wanted to present each song the best way possible and bring out the character of each song,” White said of his approach in the studio. “If it was subtle, it needed to be subtle. If she was belting it out, we needed to get intense with it.”
The twenty-something producer and great-grandmother also recorded a duet on Lynn’s song, “Portland Oregon,” a song about a drunken one-night stand. It includes the lines, “Well, I looked at him and caught him lookin’ at me/I knew right then we were playin’ free in Oregon.”
“She insisted we do a duet,” White recalled. “I said, ’All right, let’s do ’Portland Oregon’ together, and we’ll talk to each other at the bar.'”
Lynn’s new CD also features “Miss Being Mrs.”, a song she wrote while reflecting on memories of her late husband, Oliver Lynn, better known as Doolittle, Doo or Mooney.
“You know really that’s what makes me feel good about things,” Lynn said. “If I’m feeling something, I’ll put it in a song, and it helps.”
Lynn celebrated the arrival of Van Lear Rose during a recent star-packed gathering of friends, family and industry supporters at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel. In a career spanning more than four decades, it was her first-ever album release party.
“You can say she’s with the White Stripes or Led Zeppelin or whoever,” Kix Brooks noted at the party, “and all you can do is look forward to hearing what it’s going to be.”
Terri Clark, who brought her grandfather as her guest, used to sing Lynn’s songs as a child and during her days playing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville.
“Why wouldn’t I be here?” Clark said. “She’s somebody that has inspired I think every female country singer that’s ever been.”