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8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $41-$51
There is a story from Loretta Lynn's early days on the road:
A touring agent took her cowboy boots and gave her, in turn, a pair of high-heeled shoes. This was in an effort to slick up her image, to get her out of her uniform of blue jeans and plaid shirts. She fell repeatedly. After years of walking mainly barefooted, this was the first pair of heels she had ever worn. During the show, she'd had enough of feeling like a teetering seesaw on stilts. Off came the high heels. In her stockings, just as her mother had when Loretta was a child, Lynn began to dance a Kentucky hoedown, a spirited act, revealing a woman unashamedly honest about, and accepting of, the truth of who she is.
There's another story that goes back further, back when her main duties were those of a mother and a wife:
Her husband, Oliver Lynn, often known as Doolittle, or Doo, bought her a guitar from Sears and Roebuck. A $17 investment.
It would not be the last thing her husband gave her. His drinking, his affairs with other women, his part in Loretta's bearing four children by the age of 18, and their devotion to one another through it all, gave her the material from which she shaped many of her classic songs. While other celebrities try to keep the front door to their private lives shut tight against the public, Lynn opens hers up wide, inviting her fans in.
A jukebox full of Loretta Lynn records would offer songs on cheating, lying, love, crying, fighting, the Lord above, success, sex, revenge, contraceptives, motherhood and drinking. And while some of this may seem like the usual country music fare, from Lynn it was something altogether original. The songs are written from a female point of view, and who knew, prior to Loretta Lynn's 1960 debut with “I'm a Honky Tonk Girl,” that women, in their heartbreak, sorrow and defiance, could be just as surly and audacious as any cowboy, honky-tonkin', truck-drivin' man?
In her hit autobiography, “Coal Miner's Daughter,” Lynn wrote, “Most of the women like me. They could see I was Loretta Lynn, a mother, a wife and a daughter, who had feelings just like other women. … They'd come around the bus after the show and they'd ask to talk to me. They felt I had the answers to their problems because my life was just like theirs.”
Fans are notoriously devoted to her, drawn to her mixture of innocent country girl and strong-willed woman. She is not the upwardly mobile, single lady singing about how she does not need a man. She is the traditional woman singing about how she does not need her man pushing her around. “Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind),” “Your Squaw is on the Warpath,” “Fist City” — all are songs that tell of a wife who has had enough and takes a stand against her man's overbearing ways.
Listeners have bought her records for nearly 50 years because they believe that when she sings of her own life she is also singing of theirs.
There is no affectation in Lynn's style, just a fierce wit and an old-fashioned honesty. Take, for example, her controversial 1975 release, “The Pill”:
“This old maternity dress I've got is going in the garbage,
“The clothes I'm wearing from now on won't take up so much yardage.
“Mini skirts, hot pants, and a few little fancy frills,
“I'm making up for all those years, since I've got the pill.”
The song, although humorous, was no joke to Lynn when she penned it: Four kids by 18 and after her music career began to take shape she was pregnant again with twins.
“Well, they didn't have none of those pills when I was younger,” wrote Lynn, “or I'd have been swallowing them up like popcorn.”
That jukebox of Loretta Lynn songs belongs in a three-chair beauty parlor, where all the women know one another's names and the names of one another's children. A place where real, living women congregate and confess what they experience, and endure, throughout their real, everyday lives. While shopping in the Woolworth's, perusing at the Piggly Wiggly, Loretta's songs whisper in the ears of isolated housewives, “Honey, you ain't alone.”
The '80s came along and Lynn's straightforward, unadorned style was passed over for a smoother, pop-influenced country sound that has still not left the mainstream market. Lynn receded from the limelight.
Then, in 2004, Lynn broke away from stale Nashville producers and paired up with Jack White of the White Stripes. The result was “Van Lear Rose,” an album that has added a generation of young, musically discerning fans to her cache of supporters. “Van Lear Rose” features Lynn at the top of her creative skill. It is a rich record, melding the endearing story-telling she exhibited in her heyday with a rock 'n' roll energy that shows Lynn, in her mid-70s, as fiery as ever.
That's the Lynn we expect to get on Saturday night.