My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn’

Multi-artist tribute albums are more often than not hit-or-miss; rarely does one like all of the contributing artists or their interpretations of the hits of the person being honored. Columbia Records’ newly released tribute to Loretta Lynn, marking her 50th anniversary as a country music artist, is no exception, although it does contain a fair share of surprises. I cringed when I saw certain names among the credits, but in a few instances found that their tracks were among the album’s highlights. Likewise, some of the tracks I was looking forward to were somewhat disappointing.

The opening track, performed by Gretchen Wilson, falls into the latter category. On the surface, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” seems like an ideal song for her, but her rendition surprisingly lacks the passion and spark that I was expecting. Instead, she sounds like a better-than-average amateur on karaoke night. Lucinda Williams’ take on “Somebody Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missing Tonight)” was also a let-down. She slurs the lyrics so badly that I found myself wondering if she really had those few little drinks referred to in the first verse prior to entering the studio.

On the other hand, the album contains quite a few pleasant surprises, not the least of which is Faith Hill’s reading of “Love Is The Foundation”. I’ve never been a huge Faith fan, and I considered her contribution to 1998’s Tammy Wynette tribute album to be one of the lowlights of that uneven project. This time around, however, she proves that she can deliver the goods. Loretta praised Faith’s performance of the song recently, and after hearing it, I have to concur that it was quite good. I was more than apprehensive about the artists who from outside the world of country music. I’d never heard of Paramore before and was expecting not to like their take on “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”, but instead found their stripped-down, acoustic guitar arrangement to be quite effective. The White Stripes’ recording of “Rated X”, recorded several years ago, is the track that can be credited with spawning the Van Lear Rose album. I’d not heard it before, and though they’re not quite my cup of tea, the song works much better than I thought it would.

There are, of course, some famous names that seem perfectly matched for such a project, that do not disappoint: Lee Ann Womack contributes “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl”, which sounds like it could have actually been recorded in 1960, when Loretta’s original version was released, and Reba McEntire’s “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” is the best offering in the collection. Reba manages to accomplish the near-impossible — putting her own stamp on a Loretta Lynn classic. Producer Buddy Cannon gives the old honky-tonk number a Western swing feel, which suits Reba perfectly, and The Time Jumpers — a band that includes Kenny Sears, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin, among others — are superb. If only Reba would include tracks like this on her own albums. The two Conway and Loretta duets that are included — “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” performed by Alan Jackson and Martina McBride and “After The Fire Is Gone” performed by Steve Earle and Allison Moorer, with Moorer doing the heavy lifting — are also quite good.

Like most tribute albums, Coal Miner’s Daughter has its share of clunkers. In addition to the aforementioned Lucinda Williams track, Carrie Underwood’s “You’re Looking At Country” is sung with an affected and very exaggerated twang which is quite grating, and Kid Rock’s “I Know How” is simply unlistenable. Trust me, he does not know how.

The album closes with the title track, and Loretta’s signature song, performed by Loretta herself along with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow and produced by John Carter Cash and Loretta’s daughter Patsy Lynn. Loretta is in good voice and more than holds her own against the two younger vocalists.

If I’d been in charge of overseeing this project, I’d have excluded a few names and included a few others that did not appear. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to include Paramore, and that indeed would have been a loss. Coal Miner’s Daughter isn’t without its flaws, but it is a more than adequate tribute to country music’s most important female artist and is well worth a listen.

Grade: B

4 responses to “Album Review: ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn’

  1. Leeann Ward November 17, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I pretty much share your opinions on this album with a couple of differences. I’m not big on the Paramore track because it sounds more like a demo track to me rather than a quality stripped down song. Also, I like the Underwood song pretty well. I agree with everything else, however.

    I absolutely agree with you on the Gretchen Wilson take. Not only did it lack any passion, it sounded like she was matching the music note to note, syllable to syllable, as if she’d never heard the song before having to record it,which results in the kareoke-like performance that you pointed out. It’s unfortunate, because I have no doubt that Wilson is very familiar with Loretta Lynn’s music and her cover could have been one of the best.

  2. pwdennis November 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Clearly this album was put together with an eye toward sales as I can think of any number of singers that could handle Loretta’s material better than some of these ‘artists’ do – Jean Shepard, Connie Smith and Chely Wright to name just three.

    Also would it have killed them to include Loretta’s best duet song, “Sweet Thang” ? I would have loved to hear Garth and Trisha tackle that one. I’m sure they would have done it, if asked

  3. Ben Foster November 17, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I can’t say I had high expectations for the Kid Rock track to begin with. I love the Lee Ann Womack track and the Jackson/McBride version of “Lousiana Woman, Mississippi Man.”

  4. Ken Johnson November 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Is it just me or does anyone else see the contradiction in attempting to make a country star out of a guy who calls himself Kid ROCK… the fact that he cannot sing to save his life….and a bath and a haircut wouldn’t be a bad idea for him either.

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