When I saw the film version of Loretta Lynn’s autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter, a fan was born. Make that millions of fans, the Hollywood Foreign Press (who named it Best Film of 1980) and the Academy (which awarded Sissy Spacek with a Best Actress Oscar). Soon, a new generation of Coal Miner’s Daughter, aka Loretta Lynn, fans will arise when the stage adaptation starring Zooey Deschanel hits Broadway. But for the post-film and pre-play present, there’s something else out there—the real deal Loretta Lynn herself is on tour.
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning country star can currently be seen at Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook. She kicked off her weekend run on Friday, June 22, performing with The Coal Miners, her eight-piece backup band which also served as an opening act with the help of The Lynns—Loretta’s twin babies (now grown up) Patsy and Peggy.
Like their mother, the women were charmingly down-to-earth as they sang, talked, and killed time while Lynn senior readied herself in the wings. Though the two were delightful, their presence also made it very clear, there is only one Queen of Country: Loretta Lynn.
Looking like a country and western version of Marie Antoinette with high hair and sparkling light blue gown, Lynn was greeted by a standing ovation as she opened with They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore. Without missing a beat or taking much of a breath, she immediately followed with You’re Lookin’ At Country.
After that, it was up to the audience to decide the playlist as Lynn encouraged requests. One’s on the Way was the first called out. Lynn went directly into an updated version, replacing Jackie Kennedy’s name with Michelle Obama’s, before segueing into the similarly-themed song The Pill.
Lynn also sang two Patsy Cline covers—She’s Got You and Walking After Midnight—in addition to her own hits, including Blue Kentucky Girl; I’m A Honky Tonk Girl; Your Squaw is on the Warpath; Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind); When The Tingle Becomes A Chill; Dear Uncle Sam; You Ain’t Woman Enough; Here I Am Again; Somebody Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missin’ Tonight); and Fist City featuring fave lyric, “I’m not sayin’ my baby’s a saint ’cause he ain’t and that he won’t cat around with a kitty.”
Such wit could be heard in between the songs as well as Lynn freely conversed with the band and audience, relaying anecdotes and off-the-cuff remarks—all of which provide a spark of spontaneity that makes live shows like this both exciting and intimate. One couldn’t help conclude that the Lynn on stage is the same as Lynn at home: gifted, modest, funny and hardworking.
Although 70+, Lynn sang back-to-back songs with nary a break. When she eventually did take a seat and a sip of water, The Coal Miners performed a couple numbers. But while great musicians, their vocals and song selections left something to be desired, not least of which a mute button for what they lacked in talent, they made up for in volume—a style that screamed they’re not in the same league as Lynn.
However, front man Bart Hansen did a nice job of pitch-hitting for the late Conway Twitty as he performed duets with Lynn on Lead Me On; Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man; and After The Fire is Gone. Lynn also made a point of saluting her longtime collaborator, for whom she is performing a special Remembering Conway concert at her ranch on July 7, 2012.
After a brief medley of selected Gospel songs composed by Lynn including Who Says God is Dead, she closed with Coal Miner’s Daughter, bringing the crowd to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. But more than that, the song—as well as the book, film and upcoming play—define Lynn’s past as much as securing her present and future as one of the greatest country legends of all time. (5 out of 5 stars)
Lynn performs again tonight, June 23, and tomorrow, June 24 on 100 Drury Lane. For reservations, call 630-530-0111 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com for more information. For news of her Remembering Conway concert, visit http://www.lorettalynn.com//splash.ct.html.