Van Lear Rose Album reviews.
Release Date: 04.27.04
Record label: Interscope Records
Genre(s): Country Western
Notice Has Been Served: The Five Reasons
by: matt cibula
Fourth-best reason to love this record: Jack White kicks ass here. He does! Whether or not you like the White Stripes, whether or not you hate Jack because that’s the cool thing to do, whether or not you have serious doubts about his ability to be a good accompanist to a 70-year-old country singer-songwriter – it doesn’t matter, y’all, he pulls it off. Of course, a large part of it is that he truly seems to love and honor Loretta Lynn’s work and writing and singing. But the even bigger part is that he knows when to step up (the duet on “Portland Oregon,” where he does his weirdo voice just for a second and it’s awesome) and when to shut up and let the songs speak for themselves (most of the rest of the album). The backing band, the Do Whaters, acquits themselves nobly, doing whatever they need to do, especially drummer Patrick Keeler.
Third-best reason to love this record: Loretta Lynn’s voice. You hear this Kentucky marvel most clearly on her monologue “Little Red Shoes,” where she just drawls out a heartbreaking and funny story about how shoplifting is good if you’re poor and have a sick child…and she was the child. But all the rest of the tunes here are sung by someone who’s been in the game for so long that she can turn on and off attributes like “fragile” (“God Makes No Mistakes”) and “haunted” (“Women’s Prison”) and “survivor” (“Story of My Life”). She knows how to sell it, man, she just knocks it out time after time; she might hit a couple of bum notes here and there but you don’t even notice them. They actually help.
Second-best reason to love this record goes along with best reason to love this record, because they’re intertwined: Loretta Lynn’s attitude, and Loretta Lynn’s songs. These are just some well-written songs, maybe the best-written songs of the year. It’s the first time she’s ever done an entirely self-written album, which is ballsy at 70, but the lyrics and the tunes are on point. “Van Lear Rose” paints a picture of a community that the narratrix couldn’t have ever visited, a poor mining town with one beautiful woman, the eponymous character…who turns out to be the singer’s mother. Stunning. She makes the rest of us feel like shit for NOT living in poverty in rural America (“High on a Mountain Top”) then turns around and punishes her cheating husband in “Mrs. Leroy Brown” by stealing all his money and buying a pink limousine. Ace. “Family Tree” is a total Loretta song, where she scorns and ‘bukes the woman who’s stolen her husband: “No I didn’t come to fight / If he was a better man I might / But I wouldn’t dirty my hands on trash like you”. Oh snap! And I can’t even discuss the way she plumbs the depths of loneliness on “This Old House” and “Miss Being Mrs.”
So: five reasons and they’re all good. Definitely one of the twenty best records of the year, and maybe top ten at that. 09-Aug-2004 11:28 PM