Still Country, the title of Loretta Lynn's newest album, defines the Country Music Hall of Fame great perfectly. It's as safe as saying Elton still rocks and B.B. King still zings the blues. Still energetic and still feisty are two more terms that fit the country music icon who has been releasing records for 40 years.
Loretta's history is well chronicled in song, the written word and on the silver screen, thanks to Coal Miner's Daughter. The song hit number one, the book scaled the best-seller lists and the movie won Sissy Spacek an Academy Award. And what a tale! Log cabin life in the Kentucky hills. Discovered by Mooney Lynn when she was 13, and married and pregnant a year later. Four of her six children were born before Loretta reached the ripe old age of 21.
Mooney was her mentor, buying her a guitar, motivating her to play it and prodding her into the music business. Countless miles on the road promoting her first single, "I'm A Honky-Tonk Girl," finally paid off when she signed with Decca Records. She started hitting the charts in 1962, and was off and running like a Kentucky racehorse.
Lynn blazed a path for female songwriters with such attitudinal in-your-face hits as "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)" and "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man."
Loretta and Conway Twitty teamed talents for a dozen years of duet artistry, winning CMA vocal duo honors from 1972 through 1975. Loretta also scored a breakthrough when she became the first female to win the CMA's coveted Entertainer of the Year award (1972).
Lynn never shied away from controversial lyrics either, performing "The Pill" with her usual bouncy, hard-hitting style. "I write about everyday life, and that's what got me in so much trouble," says Lynn, referring to the song about the birth control pill. "Everyone was taking those pills but me, and I have the kids to prove it!"
1988 brought her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and her career continued full steam ahead into the '90s when she slowed down to tend to her ailing husband. Mooney died in 1996, devastating Loretta who had been by the side of her beloved "Doolittle" for 48 years.
The new album - her first solo release of new material in a dozen years - is a touching tribute to her late husband. One song she wrote for it, "I Can't Hear The Music," is a devastating tale of loss and loneliness as she sings, "Sometimes late at night I forget that he's not lying next to me/He may be out of sight but out of mind is something he won't ever be."
"Every time I turned around, something would remind me about him," recalls Loretta. "I don't know what I did except I was just existing."
But existing for Loretta means writing and singing, her other passions in life. "People ask me why I'm releasing an album now," she says. Her answer is a question: "Why not? Mooney is gone, my kids are all grown and I want to work again."
The album, produced by Randy Scruggs and released on Adium Records/Koch Records, has provided a new focus for the Belle of Butcher Holler, Kentucky. "No one was as country as me when I first came to Nashville," insists Loretta. "And it's still the same for me today. I haven't changed with the times - the times have followed me. I've just been waiting until it comes around again."