HER indomitable spirit undimmed, Loretta Lynn recites the song she’s “carried in her heart” for decades.
“Well, I was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler,” she intones in a voice firm and true.
Loretta’s spoken-word rendition of Coal Miner’s Daughter, performed over sparse banjo, serves as the emotional centre-piece of her new album Still Woman Enough.
As she approaches her 89th birthday on April 14, the country music icon has never lost touch with her humble beginnings.
The eldest of eight children, her upbringing was one of extreme hardship tempered by the love she and her siblings received from devoted parents Ted and Clary.
Some of you may recall Sissy Spacek’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Loretta’s rags-to-riches story in the 1980 film named after the song.
The first verse of Coal Miner’s Daughter continues: “We were poor but we had love. That’s the one thing that my daddy made sure of. And he shovelled coal to make a poor man’s dollar.”
Relaying her reflections on those heartfelt lyrics to me via her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell, Loretta says today: “They mean the world to me because they’re my story . . . not just a story, but my real life.
“It was a lifetime ago but I can close my eyes and it feels like yesterday.”
She affirms: “I had the best parents in the world and this song is my tribute to them, to their hard work and the life that made me.
“You can’t ever forget where you come from and I carry the song in my heart everywhere I go.”
Despite being laid low with a stroke in 2017 and breaking a hip a year later, Loretta is a fighter — and her album kicks off with the defiant title track Still Woman Enough.
Featuring two of the country scene’s biggest current stars, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood, it’s a rousing and fitting sequel to the take-no-prisoners 1966 hit You Ain’t Woman Enough.
I ask Loretta if the album proves she really is Still Woman Enough. “Well, I think the main thing it proves is that my life IS music,” she replies.
“And, as long as I can, I want to keep putting music out there for my fans.”
The album includes rerecorded Loretta classics Honky Tonk Girl, One’s On The Way (with Margo Price) and I Wanna Be Free, along with country staples Keep On The Sunny Side, Old Kentucky Home and Hank Williams’ I Saw The Light.
Perfectly bookending the 13-track song cycle is an impassioned reboot of You Ain’t Woman Enough with guest vocals Tanya Tucker.
Sharing production duties were Loretta’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, son of the late, great first couple of country, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. So I’ve hooked up with both to talk all things Loretta Lynn.
After a year like no other because of Covid-19, Patsy gives an update on how her mother is faring right now.
“Mom’s actually doing great,” she says. “She recently received her Covid shot and was SO happy to get it.
“She’s been focused on the new album and is already dreaming up ideas of what she wants to do next.
“She loves working and loves being with people, so no one has been more eager for the pandemic to come to an end.”
With some choice words, John also sheds light on how Loretta’s getting along. “She has the same spit and vinegar and drive and clarity of communication as she ever had,” he says.
“When I talk to her, she still looks you right in the eye and she’s there, even if she’s fragile physically.