THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE The queen of country shows why her reign continues.
Loretta Lynn goes back to her roots on her new album “Full Circle” (Legacy Recordings), revisiting some of her earliest work and some of her country classics.
The concept is interesting, especially when you throw in producers — Patsy Lynn Russell, her daughter, and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash — who know her catalog so well and know that a stripped-down, focused style suits her well.
But what takes it to the next level, of course, is the distinctive voice of Lynn, still going strong at 83, and how well she deploys it now.
Somehow, Lynn makes her new version of “Fist City” sound even fiercer, menacingly declaring, “You better close your face and stay out of my way if you don’t want to go to Fist City” while maintaining her manners.
There’s an elegance to her version of “Secret Love,” created by her more melancholy take on the “Calamity Jane” song and the classy, jazzy guitar flourishes.
The command she holds over the classic “Always on My Mind” feels even stronger thanks to the gorgeous arrangement that starts with a simple piano and grows warmer as the string sections arrive.
Unlike her stunning “Van Lear Rose” album in 2004, where Lynn teamed up with Jack White to amplify her feisty persona and bring it to a new generation of fans, “Full Circle” isn’t trying to redefine anything. Even on “Everything It Takes,” a new duet with Elvis Costello, Lynn is simply putting her new material in context with her entire career. The way she refocuses “Whispering Sea,” the first song Lynn ever wrote more than five decades ago, shows how timeless her songwriting has always been.
In case there was any question if Lynn is still “The Queen of Country Music,” “Full Circle” makes it clear that her hold on her throne is even stronger.