My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Hymns’

51xEM2vs-xL._SS280I find it difficult to evaluate albums of religious music, for the usual criteria really don’t apply. To start with, not all country music fans/listeners are necessarily Christian or even theistic, although a majority of country music listeners (and an even larger majority of bluegrass fans) are Christian. There simply will be a percentage of fans for who this music will be of no interest whatsoever.

Moreover, the concept of whether or not a song would make a good single for the artist is a really mundane consideration. I don’t that Loretta had any great expectations about commercial success when she recorded this album. Country artists of this era simply recorded religious music because their fans expected it of them and because they felt an inner need to record the songs of praise and salvation. The fact that some of these albums charted was a bonus, and this album reached #10 on the country charts.

This was Loretta’s first Gospel album of her career, although it would not be her last. The album was a mixture of a dozen Gospel and Inspirational music songs that had enjoyed sustained popularity over the years and few newer songs written by Lynn or other Nashville writers.

Hymns catches Loretta Lynn at the absolute peak of her vocal prowess. Her clear bell-like voice was ideally suited for these songs and the ‘Nashville Sound’ trappings do not detract from the songs. My copy of this album is on a cassette, so the song order as I have it may differ from the vinyl or CD versions of the album.

The album opens with a Loretta Lynn composition “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”, a good song that Alison Krauss & the Cox Family covered nearly thirty years later. This is followed by a Mosie Lister song that has become a Gospel standard “Where No One Stands Alone” and the traditional “When They Ring Those Golden Bells”.
“Peace In The Valley” has been one of my favorite songs since I heard Red Foley sing it on network television back around 1959 or 1960. Loretta does a fine job with the song, although I would still recommend Red Foley’s version as the ultimate recording of the song.

Other tracks:

“If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again” (John Whitfield Vaughan)
“The Third Man” (Don Helms, Teddy Wilburn)
“How Great Thou Art” (Stuart Hine)
“Old Camp Meeting Time” (traditional)
“When I Hear My Children Pray” (Les Waldrop)
“In The Sweet Bye and Bye” (J.P. Webster, Sanfod Bennett)
“When I Learned To Pray” (Loretta Lynn)
“I’d Rather Have Jesus” (Traditional)

As you can tell by the song selections, Loretta breaks no new ground with this album. By Loretta Lynn standards Hymns is a rather sedate album, although well performed. It is nice to hear “How Great Thou Art” performed without it becoming an exercise in how long the final notes can be held without the singer collapsing from asphyxiation.

I am not going to give a letter grade to this album. If you are a believer and a fan of country music you should enjoy this album. If you are a non believer, you might not like this album, but then again, a non-believer Loretta Lynn fan might find this a worthwhile acquisition anyway.

Loretta Lynn would go on to record a number of other religious albums. These subsequent albums would be more rambunctious and exhibit more of Loretta’s personality. I would recommend listeners check out Who Says God Is Dead?


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