Country Legend Comes “Full Circle”
Only a legend can wait 12 years to release an album and receive a warm waterfall of critical reception, but Loretta Lynn is just that. On “Full Circle,” Lynn provides her fan base with yet another collection of down-home, Appalachian-bred country tunes, offering an authentic reminder of what true country sounds like while bro-country and forced banjos so often clutter up the charts.
Lynn’s endearing staying power as an artist rests in her ability to deliver this classic sound. Her voice retains it twang and warble, proving her natural talent has been polished by years of practice and performance. Lynn surrounds herself with a sharp and talented group of pickers, fiddlers, piano players and thumping drummers, who add fanciful solos and warm, classic sounds. The occasional mandolin and pedal steel round out the traditional country sound expertly produced by Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash, along with vocal assists from Elvis Costello on “Everything it Takes” and Willie Nelson on “Lay Me Down.”
“Full Circle’” stays true to its name by offering new recordings of old songs, various covers and new works. The record opens notably with a new version of “Whispering Sea,” the first song that Lynn ever wrote. The album spans the breadth of traditional country topics like life, love, loss and nature — but the strongest, most interesting perspective are those songs that ponder the life well-lived. “Who’s Gonna Miss Me,” and “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” on the first half of the album exhibit Lynn at her gather-round, mid-tempo best.
The strong-hearted “I Never Will Marry” is the manifesto of a woman who pledges to stay single and avoid the trials of love, while “Everything it Takes” is a woman pleading to her lover to stay away from a dangerous temptress. “Black Jack David” and “Fist City” take us back decades to when country songs were folk songs, the kind that were traded around campfires and echoed through the mountains of West Virginia.
Lynn’s cover of “Wine into Water” is a sad, pleading take on sobriety once recorded by T. Graham Brown. While Lynn’s take is equally powerful, she trades the gospel bent for her signature twang. The lovesick ballad “Always on My Mind” proves Lynn, even at 83, can still hold out a note with expertly trained control.
On “Full Circle,” Lynn proves to be just as strong and evocative of a storyteller as she was decades ago when she made a name for herself and earned a spot as one of country music’s most legendary — and more awarded — artists. Though time may have taken a toll on her range and elicited a slight warble where there once was only vibrato, one hardly notices given her still-rich tone and crystal clear pronunciation.
A record full of true country songs like “Full Circle” might not be for all listeners, given the electronic and trend-centric tastes of mainstream audiences, but it will be a treat for fans of Loretta. It is a thoughtful, rich listen for those who yearn for a pure, authentic taste of the folk roots that gave way to the Americana and alt-country we enjoy today.