This is my first “country” post about underrated music.
I first discovered Loretta Lynn’s music when I first saw the amazing movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” when I was a little kid (I think my mom and older sister made me watch it). At the time, I reluctantly sat down with them and watched it, thinking I’d hate it. I wound up really liking it and it’s one of the first movies I remember ever seeing, in addition to the first three Muppet Movies (The Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan). I recently saw “Coal Miner’s Daughter” again, in full… and watched it four times since then. Fuckin’ AWESOME film.
I didn’t listen to any country for most of my life, because I hated the sound of it. My parents used to torture me listening to mid-80s overproduced country music because they went through a phase, I guess…. I think a lot of parents in the mid-80s did, too, when MTV, VH1 and CMT came out.
I didn’t listen to any of this stuff until I started working at an independent record store in 2000. My friend Jackie would spin all kinds of great stuff, and she’d throw on Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams Sr., and at first I’d be all “what the fuck?” but the more I listened to it, the more I realized how fucking good it all was.
There’s so much to be said about old, classic country. There’s three reasons why it’s great:
1. It was written by and sung by regular-looking people. There were no gorgeous people singing these songs. These were real, BROKE-ASS people from the southern USA, who needed to write songs for catharsis…. to take their minds off their rough, tiring lives. If they got a record deal, it’s because they were fuckin’ GREAT at what they did….. and had amazing voices.
2. Classic country songs are some of the most real, direct songs ever written. Listen to most of Hank Williams’ early hits, such as “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”…. his falsetto hook in the verse… and especially in the chorus…. god DAMN. You can’t feel that shit? You’re soulless. “A man needs a woman he can lean on, but my leanin’ post is done left and gone…” Or Hank’s “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”….. shit. And then take a listen to the Loretta Lynn songs below. If you don’t feel this shit…. go far, far away and please take your shitty music taste with you. These songs are so fucking real, they OOZE truth.. they bleed it.
3. They’re ALL catchy. Great musicianship. The pedal steel guitars, the fiddles (violins or any orchestral string instruments, for the uneducated… most commonly violin), the backing vocals… the drum beats played softly with brushes…. whether a girl or guy sings the songs…. you know you’re going to get some extremely high-quality songwriting. The songs may all sound the same or blend together, I’ll admit… but, a lot of songs tend to do that. A lot of early Beatles songs sound the same. 50s doo-wop songs always used the same I-vi-IV-V chord progression, and play me most metal and hardcore songs, and I couldn’t tell the difference between any two bands, honestly. And then the “dancy” or “edgy” indie rock of today…. it all blends together for me. But, one thing old country songs have over all that other stuff is just extremely well-written and professionally-performed songs.
Ok, so…. enough of the country diatribe…. here are four famous Loretta Lynn songs that she wrote herself (“I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” was her first single, and the first song she ever wrote), and the following three she didn’t write (but are still amazingly perfect songs).
She and Shel Silverstein (yes, THAT guy– the Where The Sidewalk Ends guy) wrote this gem: