"Well, I was born a coal miner's daughter/ In a cabin, on a hill in Butcher Holler/ We were poor, but we had love/ That's the one thing my daddy made sure of/ He shovelled coal to make a poor man's dollar." - Coal Miner's Daughter - Loretta Lynn.

When septuagenarian Loretta Lynn needed a producer for the title track of her all star tribute disc she didn't have to look far.

Well, it's young Patsy - one of the Lynn twins she carried on her hip to many concerts in her embryonic career.

They debuted backstage - just 3 weeks old at the Grand Ole Opry - and another three years later at nearby Tootsie's where they later performed incognito as the Honk-A-Billies.

And, yes, Patsy who recorded an album with sister Peggy as The Lynns - back in 1997- was named after the late Patsy Cline.

So here the cycle turns when Patsy produced Coal Miner's Daughter with John Carter Cash - son of the late Johnny and June.

So there's little chance of any sonic stuff-ups with the dynasty at the helm for the vocal nuptials of Loretta, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert.

For the record the Lynns wrote eight of 10 tunes on their debut Reprise album that feature another clan leader Lloyd Maines - dad of Dixie Chick Natalie - on pedal steel guitar.

Here the title track is delivered as a fitting finale.


"Well, you thought I'd be waitin' up/ When you came last night/ You'd been out with all the boys/ And you ended up half tight/ But liquor and lust, they just don't mix/ Leave the bottle or me behind/ And don't come home a drinking/ with lovin' on your mind." - Don't Come Home A Drinkin With Loving On Your Mind - Loretta Lynn

Producer credits here have equal trivia value as the artists.

Redneck Woman and two time Australian tourist Gretchen Wilson produced her rendition of feisty entrée Don't Come Home A Drinkin' With Lovin' On Your Mind with veteran Blake Chancey.

Blake signed the Dixie Chicks to Monument and won Grammy awards for producing their early albums Wide Open Spaces and Fly.

Blake is the son of Ron Chancey who originally signed famed free falling Floridian singing sailor Jimmy Buffett and Texan George Strait.

Blake also helmed discs by artists diverse as the late Waylon Jennings, Jeff Bates, Montgomery Gentry and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

But here he returns to steering the wheel with his former client Gretchen -now an indie artist.

Gretchen's inspired rendition of Lynn's 1967 hit segues into Texan Lee Ann Womack's version of Lynn's first hit I'm A Honky Tonk Girl.

It's no surprise Womack - one of the last stone country chanteuses on radio - was produced by Americana ace Buddy Miller at his home studio Dogtown.

Womack, singing spouse of another producer Frank Liddell, cut songs by Miller and wife Julie including Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?

Lee Ann was also the third voice on the Larry Cordle-Larry Shell penned parody Murder On Music Row with March tourist - Georgian superstar Alan Jackson and Texan Strait.

Miller adds to the authenticity by using fiddler Stuart Duncan, Russ Pahl on steel, bassist Dennis Crouch, Joel Guzman on accordion and another of his clients - latter day Texan Patty Griffin on harmony vocals.


"Well I like my lovin' done country style/ And this little girl would walk a country mile/ To find her a good old slow talkin' country boy/ I said a country boy/ I'm about as old fashioned as I can be/ And I hope you're liking what you see/ 'Cause if you're lookin' at me" - You're Lookin' at Country - Loretta Lynn.

Not as accessible is Rated X by The White Stripes whose front man Jack White produced Lynn's 2004 Grammy Award winning disc Van Lear Rose.

More convincing is Oklahoma singer Carrie Underwood's fierce cut of You're Looking At Country, fuelled by Gordon Mote's rollicking honky tonk piano.

Veteran singer-songwriter Keith Stegall puts his radio stamp on long time client Alan Jackson's inspired rendition of Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man with Kansas chart topper Martine McBride.

The use of legendary session pianist Hargus Pig Robbins, Paul Franklin on steel and fiddler Stuart Duncan helps.

Tennessee rock band Paramore stokes the country fire of You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man and Mississippi born balladeer Faith Hill delivers Love Is The Foundation as smooth as Friesian butter.

Lynn was elated with the Paramore version - and the song source.

"You Ain't Woman Enough come to me when a little girl come back stage and said her husband didn't bring her to the show, he brought his girlfriend," Loretta recalled in a recent interview.

"This was before the show started, and she wanted me to look out the curtain and see what this girl looked like. I peaked out and there she was, painted up like you wouldn't believe. I looked round at the little girl that was talking to me. And she didn't have no makeup at all. And I said, "Honey, she ain't woman enough to take your man." I went right straight to my dressing room and wrote it in ten minutes. Ten minutes and a lot of money I made on that song. A lot of people have recorded it."


"Love is where you find it/ when you find no love at home/ and there's nothin' cold as ashes/ after the fire is gone." - After The Fire Is Gone - Loretta Lynn.

Seven times wed Texan born singing actor Steve Earle and Alabama born spouse Allison Moorer make a welcome return to their native genre with their passionate delivery of 1971 Lynn-Conway Twitty hit After The Fire Is Gone.

It helps that Earle produced the duet at the Woodstock studio of Levon Helm who played Loretta's father in the Coalminer's Daughter movie.

But nothing is as authentic as If You're Not Gone Too Long by Reba McEntire - the Oklahoma born singing actress - and the Time Jumpers.

The Time Jumpers, a session band who have a regular weekly spot at the famed Station Inn, feature fellow Oklahoman Vince Gill on guitar, Dawn Sears and Joe Spivey on vocals and diverse cast of session musicians.

Kid Rock earns his country cred with a macho take on I Know How.

And Louisiana woman Lucinda Williams' sultry treatment of Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missing Tonight) features her long time steel guitarist Greg Leisz with husband Tom Overby as producer.

Williams may sound nothing like Lynn but the roughage adds to the long-term value of a meaty bite of country.

VAN LEAR ROSE (Interscope-Universal)


"I'm in a women's prison with bars all around/ I caught my darlin' cheatin'/ that's when I shot him down/ I caught him in a honky tonk with a girl I used to know." - Women's Prison - Loretta Lynn.

When Loretta Lynn cut her 2004 album with White Stripes warrior Jack White the cyber chappies and chappettes saw it as groundbreaking.

But not for Coalminer's Daughter Lynn who has taken plenty of chances with her music since writing women's anthems early in her colourful 50-year recording career.

And she was one of the first country artists to earn royalties for the late great Playboy cartoonist and children's author Shel Silverstein by cutting his songs.

The singer, born Loretta Webb, mixed Shel's The Pill and One's On The Way with her own Don't Come Home A Drinkin' With Lovin' On Your Mind, You Ain't Woman Enough and Fist City.

White may still have been in swaddling clothes when the Lynn movie Coalminer's Daughter hit screens in 1980.

But he was drawn to the singer's flame long before he appeared in and wrote music for box office smash Cold Mountain - also featuring Kenny Chesney's ex-wife Renee Zellweger and Keith Urban's first bride Nicole Kidman.

The Whites included Lynn 1972 song Rated X on their 2001 album White Blood Cells - and proudly dedicated it to Loretta.

Lynn, then 69, was so touched she invited Jack and singing sister Meg to her Hurricane Mills dude ranch and cooked them chicken and dumplings and gave Meg a dress.

Now, an invite to Loretta's retreat is a real pleasure.

When I visited in 1978 as chauffeur for late country star Johnny Russell for a boy scouts concert a very humble Loretta and late husband Mooney served us steak and chicken at midnight.

Russell, writer of Act Naturally - a recidivist hit for the late Buck Owens, The Beatles and Ringo Starr - singing partner Beverly Heckel, fellow hit singer Kenny Starr and this writer feasted with glee.

But I digress.

The White produced album Van Lear Rose is an artistic triumph for Lynn who survived chronic illnesses and diverse family tragedies to write two soul bearing autobiographies.


"Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ if that ain't love, then tell me what is/ well, I looked at him and caught him lookin' at me/ I knew right then we were playin' free in Oregon." - Portland, Oregon - Loretta Lynn.

White produced the disc on Interscope-Universal in 12 days at the East Nashville home studio of Eric McConnell.

Great grandmother Lynn wrote all 13 songs including the duet with youngster White on raunchy, drunken one night stand anthem, Portland Oregon.

She wrote the title track about the Kentucky town that was the locale for the union of her father and her mother - the Van Lear Rose and belle of Johnson County.

Lynn's reality rooted songs maintain their passion and depth from that entrée track to the finale Story Of My Life - the saga of her 48 years of marital mayhem with late husband Mooney Doolittle (Oliver Vanetta Lynn) who wed her when she was 13.

He sired her six children - the first when she was 14.

Times were tougher for country artists - especially females - in the fifties and sixties.

"For one thing I had four kids in school when I started singing and back in them days I didn't have a washing machine or any of that," the mother of four at 18, said in a recent interview.

"I was scared to death about singing, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. My husband Doolittle believed in me so I had to do it. He told me I could sing and I couldn't let him down. So I'd sing and I'd rock them babies."

He gave her a guitar for her 24th birthday.

Although Lynn scored many hits with her assertive originals and some penned by late former Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein she vividly recalls her recording debut.

"The first songs I wrote that got recorded were Honky Tonk Girl and Whispering Sea and I wrote them in the same day, sitting outside by the toilet, on a $17 guitar that couldn't stay in tune," she revealed.

"I remember writing those two songs and not ever thinking anybody would hear them. Six months later I was on a little record label."

In 1976 she released best-selling memoir, Coal Miner's Daughter that led to the 1980 film version.


"Woman, you don't know me/ but you can bet that I know you/ everybody in this whole darn town knows you too/ I brought along our little babies/ cause I wanted them to see/ the woman that's burning down our family tree." - Family Tree - Loretta Lynn.

Loretta's tunes This Old House and Miss Being Mrs are extensions, so to speak, of the post marital emptiness memories of the life she and Mooney shared.

This works better than the fine Randy Scruggs produced 2002 disc Still Country because it's aimed beyond country radio at Americana.

Lynn's writing excels as she reaches deep into her turbulent family and personal history to create credible songs.

She covers a cheating murder in Women's Prison, the triangle again in Mrs Leroy Brown and Family Tree, bucolic bluegrass bliss in High On A Mountain Top and southern religion in the sardonic God Makes No Mistakes.

And she explores all extremities of ruptured romance in Trouble On The Line and Have Mercy.

Dave Feeny, Patrick Keeler, Jack Lawrence and White (the Do Whaters) backed her with Dirk Powell adding banjo, fiddle and bowed bass.

"I called them the Do Whaters because they got in and did whatever we needed them to," Lynn revealed.

"Jack didn't want a real polished sound, he didn't get it either."


"Well, I was born in Old Kentucky/ in them hills where folks are lucky/ and it's paradise to me/ well I got a feller right over the hill/ if he asks me to marry I know I will/ he asked me to marry, we got kids of four/ and I'm telling you I don't want no more." - Story Of My Life - Loretta Lynn.

Lynn grew up in tiny coal mining town Webb Holler in Kentucky that she renamed Butcher Holler in her 1970 hit Coal Miner's Daughter.

"I was the first one that called it Butcher Holler," Lynn recalled.

"It didn't sound right to sing Webb Holler, which is what it was called. My grandma was a Butcher and my grandpa was a Webb, and there were as many Butchers as Webbs up there. But it's Butcher Holler now, ever since that song. They've got signs that point you to Butcher Holler."

In the song she sings "I never thought of ever leaving Butcher Holler" but left at 13 with husband Doolittle.

Lynn revealed Coal Miner's Daughter was much longer when she wrote it but was trimmed after producer Owen Bradley heard it.

"I had more verses. Owen Bradley said, "Loretta, there's already been one 'El Paso' and we'll never have another one, Get in that room and start taking some of those verses off." Lynn recalled.

"Yeah, I took six verses off. Six? It has four we know, so it had 10 verses altogether?

Yeah, I had a whole story going. I wished I'd never thrown them away. If I'd kept them, I could record them now and put them back in the song. I should sit down and start rewriting on that song, and come up with some more verses. I threw them away and I should never have done that."


The late Roy Acuff said he couldn't fathom how she could write such astounding songs - "every one a little movie" - after never writing before.

Lynn attributes the impact of her narrative style it all to telling the truth - even it shocked the Music Rowe moguls back in the sixties.

Her songs reflected the cold hard truth of life - The Pill and Rated X were both banned from radio and went to #1 because of the controversy.

"Way before I started singing, I was trying to write," Lynn revealed in a recent interview.

"I lived out in the state of Washington and I had my four babies out there. I was trying to write everyday and I didn't know how. So I looked at the songbooks and thought that anyone could do that, so I just started writing. Whispering Sea was my first song and then Honky Tonk Girl was my second song. When I started writing, my husband was out on the ocean fishing, and I wrote Whispering Sea.

"Whispering sea, roll on by, don't you listen to me cry."

"Honky Tonk Girl came from a lady who kept coming into the little club. Doo got me a job working for five dollars on Saturday nights, a little club. She came every time I worked. She told me that her husband had left her for another woman. She'd sit there and cry. She picked strawberries with me during the time when strawberries were ripe. And when strawberry picking was over, she kept coming to the club and crying. And I wrote Honky Tonk Girl from that."

top / back to diary