65.) Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (2004)
Country music is a funny thing. It's not cool, you know? A lot of people talk about how they hate country music. You know these people, they're the same people who when asked what kind of music they like they say something along the lines of "I like everything...except country" (some of these people also say "I like everything except country...and rap" but they're just racist).
These people who blindly hate country music have probably never listened to country music. Sure, they may have heard a Brad Paisley tune or some Big and Rich and Faith Hill, but come on?! Country music is the single most misunderstood genre of music period. When country is good, I'd argue, it's some of the best music there is, but when it's bad it's Shania Twain - so it's a tough road to navigate. But if you're interested Loretta Lynn is not a bad place to start.
Country music is so uniquely American and Lynn is one of it's greatest treasures. She's always written and performed with raw and honest emotion and it's no different here on what may be the best record of her career. Jack White has always made his fondness for Lynn's music known, covering her classic "Rated X" in concert and dedicating The White Stripes' whitebloodcells to her and as a producer he's managed to bring out the absolute best in this heralded artist.
Van Lear Rose was certainly a comeback record for Lynn, but novelty it is not. This is not an artist phoning it in and trying to make a buck, rather it's one with a invigorated sense of creativity and she's used it to make a classic country record. It's at time a lot of fun ("Portland, Oregon") and others emotionally wrought ("Miss Being Mrs.") - but it's all around brilliant. It's Loretta Lynn in rare form making a record not because she has to but because she was inspired and that makes all the difference.
Posted by Pat Driscoll