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In Loretta Lynn, country meets hip

Despite throat woes, the veteran singer gives the young 'uns something to hoot 'n' holler about.

May 09, 2005|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Loretta Lynn was obviously still feeling the aftereffects of several bouts with pneumonia in recent years as she struggled to hit certain notes, and her voice cracked a couple of times during her show Saturday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana.

On the other hand, it was all to the good that the 70-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame veteran recently underwent a hip replacement -- courtesy of White Stripes singer-songwriter-producer Jack White. Thanks to the coming together of this musical odd couple, Lynn is suddenly hip with a whole new crowd.

When she last played here two years ago, in Cerritos, she drew a sea of older country fans, along with a smattering of twenty- and thirtysomethings wanting to see one of the most important country songwriters and singers of the last half century.

This time, however, the split was more like 70-30 in favor of fans more likely to be spotted at the KROQ Weenie Roast than at a George Strait show.

Fans hooted and hollered as Lynn walked onstage in a billowing white satin Southern belle-of-the-ball gown, her hair swept up in a prom-night 'do.

She launched into a couple of evergreens -- "Hey Loretta" and "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" -- before acceding to a request for something from "Van Lear Rose." She responded with "Family Tree," a no-nonsense rebuke to a home wrecker to whom she snaps: "I wouldn't dirty my hands on trash like you," a quintessential Lynn expression of a woman's refusal to be a doormat.

She also included "Portland Oregon," her Grammy-winning duet with White, with one of her backup singers ably handling White's lines. Rather than attempt to invest it with the blistering sonics White used on the album, Lynn's band and backup singers used a more traditional country arrangement.

Even fighting throat problems, Lynn still brought the crisp phrasing and intestinal fortitude that have been hallmarks of her 40-plus-year career. She lost her place a time or two when her voice was on the verge of giving out and took a break a couple of times by allowing her backup singers and then her brother-in-law to sing a few songs.

If that reduced the quantity of what Lynn was able to deliver, it hardly muted the quality from a country icon who, like Johnny Cash with his latter-years collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, has added a new dimension to an already storied career.

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