Album Review: Various Artists – Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn

Stephen Deusner | December 2nd, 2010

Coal Miner's DaughterYou can take the girl out of Butcher Holler, but you can’t take Butcher Holler out of the girl. Even during Nashville’s glitziest period, Loretta Lynn was both part of that glamour and apart from it: a country girl living not so comfortably in the city. All those frilly, rhinestone-studded dresses never could cover up her country-come-to-town demeanor, but her down-home modesty shine through all the more in gritty songs about real women with real problems.

So it’s not especially surprising that Lynn has influenced so many generations in Nashville and beyond. The selling point of her latest tribute album is its diversity, and considering the low expectations that greet this kind of grab-bag undertaking, any selling point is welcome. Coal Miner’s Daughter includes the obvious acolytes (Gretchen Wilson, Reba McEntire) as well as the not-so-obvious (Paramore, Kid Rock). As a result, it’s a better-than-average tribute, with more than a few pleasant surprises along with the requisite too-faithful covers and ill-advised experiments.

Kicking off the album, Wilson’s version of “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” sounds squarely in the redneck woman’s comfort zone, but her vocals sound clipped and stilted, an odd affectation that she’s been indulging lately. On the other hand, McEntire turns “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” into a spry Western swing number with the Time Jumpers, and Carrie Underwood accentuates her twang on “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” just skirting imitation as she makes clear there’s no other way to sing this particular song.

I never thought I’d ever type this next phrase, but Kid Rick turns in a good, gutsy, affectionate interpretation of “I Know How,” changing up the style and switching the gender pronouns. He transforms the song into a classic-rock rave-up that’s part .38 Special, part Shooter Jennings. Even better is the White Stripes’ acoustic “Rated X,” which is as perfectly chosen as it is played: A staple in the band’s live shows, this song about the sexual pressures placed upon divorced women sounds even more profound when you realize Jack White is singing it with his own ex.

Lee Ann Womack and Lucinda Williams bring out the ache and loneliness of “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” and “Somebody Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missing Tonight),” respectively. They’re very different songs—from each other as well as from the originals—yet reveal the despair and longing that inform every one of Lynn’s songs. Compared to these two vets, Hayley Williams sounds particularly weak on “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.” Paramore are a surprisingly clever Nashville pop-punk band, so it’s a shame that they didn’t take greater interpretive risks with their cover. It’s just Williams and an acoustic guitar, and it sounds a bit too timid for the subject matter.

Coal Miner’s Daughter is capped by a obligatory version of the title track, with Lynn herself trading verses with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow. Lambert is fine, Crow anonymous, but even into her 70s, Lynn still sounds robust and powerful, playing up the bittersweet nostalgia of the lyrics. It’s a heartfelt moment on an otherwise lackluster cover, but that’s Lynn: Even in the harsh country music industry, she shone simply by being herself.

3.5 Stars

  1. Ian
    December 2, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Rated X is the best song on this album in my honest opinion…

  2. PaulaW
    December 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Listening to the clips on iTunes, I was shocked at how much I liked Alan Jackson on ‘Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man’.

  3. ben
    December 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Rated x ditto

  4. Jeremy Dylan
    December 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    This is one of the best tribute records I can recall in recent memory. And that version of LOUISIANA WOMAN / MISSISSIPPI MAN just jumps out of the speakers at you.

  5. luckyoldsun
    December 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I always found “Louisiana Woman/Mississippi Man” amusing when Conway and Loretta did it because the lyrics made it seem like there was a huge difference, while the contrast between the two was so minimal. It would be like if someone did a song called “Wisconsin Woman/Indiana Man”

    Now if Loretta had sung the song with Charley Pride instead of Conway Twitty, they might have had something!

  6. Jon
    December 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Dude, have you even listened to the lyrics?! The “difference” is that they’re on different sides of a great big river, and that’s what the song is about.

  7. Rick
    December 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    What is it with Gretchen Wilson singing in that clipped, choppy vocal style? Did John Rich suggest this to her? I can appreciate Gretchen wanting to sound unique, but can’t she find a way that isn’t so annoying?

    What this album really needed was Sunny Sweeney singing “Fist City”! Darn…

  8. Leeann Ward
    December 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Perfect way of describing Gretchen’s phrasing on the song. It sounds kareoke-like. I also thought that “You Ain’t Woman Enough” sounds more like a demo recording and a low one at that. Over all, I like the album though, especially the Jackson/McBride duet, the Earle/Moorer duet and Lee Ann Womack.

  9. Steve Harvey
    December 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I quite like the Wilson cut. I don’t find anything objectionable about her phrasing.

    Between their pairing on GOOD TIME and this record, I’m starting to think there’s real potential in a Alan Jackson/Martina McBride duets album. She does seem to bring out a more excitable side of his singing.

  10. luckyoldsun
    December 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I doubt that Jackson and McBride would work as a regular team.

    The great male-female duet teams–George and Tammy, Porter and Dolly, Conway and Loretta, Johnny and June, all either had something going on between them or at least managed to make the listeners think they had something going on. (I heard Loretta Lynn say in an interview that fans who used to come up to her at appearances thought that she and Twitty were married to each other or having an affair.)

  11. luckyoldsun
    December 3, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Jon–
    I guess I didn’t take the lyric literally, as you do.
    Obviously, it’s not difficult to travel physically between Louisianna and Mississippi. The lyric suggests something metaphoric.

    Just as when Garth Brooks, Chris Knight and a bunch of other singers in various songs sing about burning bridges, I don’t think that they want you to think about literally setting fire to infrastructure.

  12. Jon
    December 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Garth Brooks, Chris Knight, etc. – all different songs. Generalized babble about metaphors contributes exactly nothing to discussion of this particular song, which has a clear, simple, somewhat comical and very country story, not about the general subject of physical travel between Louisiana and Mississippi but about the particular plight of these two particular people. Sheesh.

  13. Scooter
    December 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Like the album. Carrie can really sound country when she wants to.

  14. Joseph
    December 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Love the Carrie Underwood rendition of You’re Lookin at Country. Her voice fit that song so perfectly. I suggest everyone give it a listen. I would be shocked if Loretta doesn’t try to release this song as a single.

    I don’t know if any of these songs would be released though since on only one does Loretta sing. That song was Coal Miners Daughter with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow. It was released to radio a couple months ago but it pretty much flopped and never reached the top 40.

    I guarantee this Carrie version of the Loretta classic You’re lookin at Country would not only hit top 40 but would go all the way to #1. How cool would it be for Loretta to have another one of her songs reach #1 at this point in her life.

  15. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Particularly a song that Loretta wrote and would get the songwriter’s royalties

  16. TexasVet
    December 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Love the Carrie Underwood rendition of You’re Lookin at Country. Her voice fit that song so perfectly. I suggest everyone give it a listen. I would be shocked if Loretta doesn’t try to release this song as a single.

    Found it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbn-J69zsQs

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