Album Review: Loretta Lynn’s ‘Full Circle’

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Album Review: Loretta Lynn’s ‘Full Circle’

There has been plenty of speculation when it was announced that Loretta Lynn would be collaborating with John Carter Cash for her first album in over a decade, that the results would be similar to her last collection – 2004’s Van Lear Rose. Produced by Jack White, the genre-pushing set won Lynn a Grammy and put her name on the lips of a younger demographic.

This set is not a follow-up to the White project. As an artist with Lynn’s stature, you definitely would expect to drink from the same well again, would you? Instead, Cash takes Lynn back to her earliest musical roots – those that were formed when she grew up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

Many of the songs on Full Circle, “In The Pines” and “I Never Will Marry” among them, come from that same era where young Loretta Webb first became infatuated with that rebellious moonshiner known as “Doolittle” Lynn. (Actually, his first name was Oliver….but that doesn’t have the same catch as “Mooney,” does it?) Hearing Loretta at age 83 sing these classics, you would be hard pressed to tell if it’s 1956 or 2016. In spite of all the health concerns and tragedies that have beset her over the years, when she sings…’s timeless, pure and simple.

The disc kicks off with a little bit of inside talk concerning “Whispering Sea,” which was the B-side of her very first single. Her personality shines as bright as ever on the track. She then segues into the pop classic “Secret Love,” giving it a traditional feel that the song has never had as a pop chestnut before. She also revisits the classic “Fist City” and “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven,” both of which were staples of her early catalog. She also tips the covers hat to Willie Nelson with a soothing version of “Always On My Mind” and T. Graham Brown on “Wine Into Water.”

Simply put, there’s not a clunker on the disc….but where the album really succeeds is when it connects with that Appalachian base, as she does on “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?’ and “Black Jack David,” and winds up the album with a couple of jaw-dropping collaborations that will leave you speechless. Elvis Costello adds a nice touch on “Everything It Takes,” which sounds like it might have been written about the same “other woman” she wrote many of her 60s classics about. It fits that vein rather effectively, as well. Fellow Hall of Famer Willie Nelson guests on the closer, “Lay Me Down,” which might not have been as emotionally impactful if they had recorded it forty years ago. Hell, it’s Loretta and Willie – they probably would have, but there’s something about the knowing that Father Time is lurking a little closer in the distance that makes one worth listening to time and again.

From what I understand, Lynn has close to a hundred tracks that she recorded with Cash……so I end this review by simply saying ‘Bring on the sequel.’ Hopefully, though, this one won’t take twelve years!