In just one single chord, Loretta Lynn’s musical legacy has made its way to another generation of honky tonk lovers. At the 9:30 Club this past Saturday night, alongside a stage full of southern gents, the Coal Miner’s Daughter sang a mix of country, gospel, and everything in between. Her influence resonated throughout a jam-packed house of fans.
For Ms. Lynn, music is a family affair, the nuclear and the adopted musical one as well. Her daughter, Patsy Lynn, named after Patsy Cline, introduced the show with her mother’s accomplishments. Ms. Lynn has a career that spans over 100 albums, Patsy touted. Then Patsy’s twin sister Peggy entered the stage with their mother’s tune “You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry.” Their brother Ernest, a prankster with a classic drawl, entered center stage next to reminisce on the late Conway Twitty, a frequent Lynn collaborator. Ernest has golden voice of his own. He sang a popular tune of Twitty’s, “Slow Hand.”
After the Lynn children got the crowd in Grand Ole Opry time-capsule mode, Ernest introduced his mother Loretta. Ms. Lynn graced the stage in a glittery, periwinkle blue ball gown and began with her most famous tune, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Loretta Lynn, aged 76, is now a southern grand dame. Age is relative, though; she’s just as spry as she was when got her start with Zero Records in 1960.
Southern Culture on the Skids, Ms. Lynn’s opening act, had the wild, convivial spirit of country music, but with a contemporary spin. The band out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, plays like a small group of survivalists gearing up for the end of the world. The lead, Rick Miller, was topped off with a wide-brimmed, Crocodile Dundee-style hat. The crowd sang along with him as he and Mary Huff, wearing a bouffant, Peg Bundy-esque hairdo, played playfully transgressive songs like “Daddy was a Preacher but Mama was a Go Go Girl” and “The Wet Spot.”
Dirty humor as also present during the Loretta Lynn set. She brought down the house when her microphone caught on to a thread from her dress. When she undid the troublesome thread, she joked, “Well if my dress comes off, then it just comes off.”
All jokes aside, Ms. Lynn was just recovering from knee replacement surgery but held her own on stage. Most of her songs are now standards, so she spent some time pointing the mic to the crowd à la call-and-response with “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).”
Ms. Lynn was in the company of men one stage. And every single on of them had their own, singular fashion to go with their penchant for plucking scales and forming harmonies.
After another self-tribute with the song “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill,” Ms. Lynn sat out to let her band and backup singers take center stage with more of her classics and some traditional Kentucky folk, such as Dick Burnett’s “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
Over the years, Loretta Lynn has many a share of transformations. Since she took off after signing with Decca Records in 1961, Ms. Lynn has steadily became a legend in not just her genre, but all of 20th Century music. Her most recent outing, 2004′s Van Lear Rose, produced by Jack White, emblazoned her down-home style into the 21st Century.
Anyone at the 9:30 last Saturday night will tell you, Ms. Lynn’s still got it. I hope her music makes headway into another generation!
Photos by Dave Barnhouser, 13th Hour Photography