Since its birth 100 years ago, modern country and western has been the perfect vehicle for everyday strife and well-trodden woes. Its early female stars sang of lovesick blues and wanting to be a cowboy’s sweetheart, but in the 1960s Loretta Lynn invented a brand new kind of country. Though she’d be the last to brand her music ‘feminist’, and has many times dismissed the label, it was nothing but. All wry recollections of cheating husbands, the birth control revolution, sexual harassment and discrimination, Lynn’s music took the temperature of the 1960s but fed it through the life of a regular Southern woman.
On ‘Still Woman Enough’ – the 88-year-old singer’s 50th album – Lynn casts an eye back to some of her biggest hits, reimagining them with the help of an all-star 21st century cast. Margo Price joins in for a new version of ‘One’s On The Way’, Lynn’s tongue-in-cheek Shel Silverstein-penned hit from 1971. Still swinging – and steadfastly refusing to add any modern glitter aside from Price’s vocals, which are almost as old-school as Lynn’s twanging drawl – the duet depicts a kitchen-bound housewife, barefoot and pregnant but dealing with it as best she can. Liberation, she reasons, might be OK for the “girls in New York city”, but in Lynn’s small town, she has a family to look after and a home to run. 50 years down the line and it’s a situation that still rings true for so many women.
Lynn throws things back even further with a spirited version of ‘Keep On The Sunny Side’, written by Ada Blenkhorn and popularised by hillbilly originators – and two-thirds female – the Carter Family in the late 1920s. There’s new material too, but the message is always the same, with the focus on women’s innate strength and capabilities. “I wasn’t raised to give up,” Lynn hollers on the title track, which was co-written by Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and features vocals from fellow living legend Reba McEntire and relative newcomer Carrie Underwood, offering a cross-generational celebration of women in country.
A spoken-word recitation of Lynn’s 1970 signature song ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ is perhaps the only proper gesture towards Lynn’s advancing years. Over plaintively plucked banjo, she retells her well-trodden childhood tale of poverty and hardship, looking back across the decades to her youth in the 1930s: “We were poor, but we had love,” she beams, still one of country music’s greatest living legends.
Release date: March 12
Record label: Legacy