Review #440: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn

Karla Clifton
3 min readOct 8, 2023

#440: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn! I feel like I’ve spotted a country cryptid, because so many country artists reference Loretta and her greatness. See Lucinda Williams, Carly Pearce & Patti Loveless, Hayley Williams, etcetera etcetera etcetera. She’s popular now and she was popular sixty years ago — in fact, she was a close friends with Patsy Cline, and even recorded an album dedicated to her after her death.

It’s about what I was expecting it to be: an extremely traditional country album, with poignantly relatable lyrics and a crispy clear, warm voice. I loved her autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which is full of a rural familial pride that reminds me of Dolly and John Denver. Her songwriting is strong, but she does a good cover, too, and just like other great old country albums, it’s mostly covers: The cheerful gospel chant “Less Of Me” is Glen Campbell, and “Hello Darlin’” is Mr. Conway Twitty. “For The Good Times” is Kris Kristofferson, but she’s not the first person to record it, and neither was Al Green. (Side note — Kris Kristofferson is not only still alive, but performed at Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday party??) Then there’s the country standard “Snowbird,” which makes for a perfect closer. She’s not showy or breathy, and she delivers each song like it’s a vignette.

Lynn, who died nearly a year ago today, was married to a man she called — I promise I’m not making this up — Doo, as in short for Doolittle, which was Oliver Lynn’s nickname. She married him when she was fifteen and he was twenty, and then started popping out kids almost immediately. And in an utterly shocking twist, he was a serial cheater. But they were married for 48 years up until he died, and she would have told you not to feel sorry for her — she has basically credited him for all of her success. Yet the 2023 in me can’t help but skeeve out at the quote from her 1976 memoir of the same name as this album, which reads, “Sometimes my husband tells me, ‘I raised you the way I wanted you to be.’ And it’s true. … I went from Daddy to Doo, and there’s always been a man telling me what to do.”

Well, it doesn’t matter how I feel about that, because she sang about the subject of cheating & philandering with a plain frankness. She’s the victim sometimes — see “The Man of the House,” “Too Far,” and the psychology-positive Gonna have my head examined-chorus of “What Makes Me Tick.”

But the women in her songs aren’t just innocent victims: she’ll steal your man (“Any One, Any Worse, Any Where”) and then threaten to murder a man-stealer (“It’ll Be Open Season On You”). They’ll cheat when they don’t know what else to do (“Another Man Loved Me Last Night”). Carly Pearce sings about the painful power Lynn had to write relatably: Your songs were all fun/ ‘Til I lived them myself.

Later on, Lynn took a country singer risk and sang about touchywomen’s issues like birth control. Her music was banned on the radio within her own lifetime! Though she denied being a feminist and had somewhat controversial politics, she hurtled women’s country music forward with her confessional repertoire, the Kentucky Anne Sexton.

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