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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Loretta Lynn

Live in Rockford, IL, March, 2008

Review by Lisa Palmeno

Loretta Lynn and her family appeared in concert at the historic Coronado Theater in Rockford, IL on Friday, March 14. Speculation and rumors were whispered before the show that night about Lynn’s ability to last the entire show. In true Loretta Lynn fashion, she proved the rumors wrong.

Hallway chatter spread news that Lynn’s health was failing and that her kids would put on the show, with Lynn only standing in for two or three songs. She gave her kids their time on stage, but she never faltered in her performance, lasting nearly two hours. After 45 years in the business, she is still keeping the home fires of country music burning for the many faithful fans who purchased tickets to the sold-out show.  Adoring adults with their cameras ready were joined by little girls in pink cowgirl boots to catch a glimpse of Lynn and hear a few of the songs that have become as important to the heritage of American music as jazz and blues.

 

Loretta Lynn came with a full entourage, including three of her kids, three male back-up singers known as “The Coalettes,” three guitarists, a drummer and a man on steel guitar. Her daughter Patsy (named after Lynn’s best friend Patsy Cline) came out in jeans and a shiny blue shirt with short sleeves and introduced the show. She shared information about her mom’s new cookbook with the audience, thanking everyone for sharing the

45-year anniversary of Lynn’s singing career.

 

Lynn’s son Ernie opened the show with Toby Keith’s hit song “I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was” and “Good Directions” by Billy Currington. “Good Directions” is true southern music with references to a “country store with an old Coke sign” and “Miss Belle’s sweet tea.” Charlie Archer was terrific on steel guitar here, just before the famed twins Peggy and Patsy came out to share a couple of tunes with their well-developed, modern country voices. They shared their original, “Sara,” a poignant song about a little girl born from a one-night stand whose existence threatens her daddy’s marriage when his wife finds out about her. As The Lynns, Patsy and Peggy won Country Music Awards of their own, one in 1997 for Nights Like These and in 1998 for Woman to Woman.

 

They came by their talent naturally; Ernie introduced his mother as the “most awarded lady in country music.” Loretta kicked off her almost two-hour set with The Bellamy Brothers’ 1976 crossover hit “Let Your Love Flow” and quickly moved on to  a song that hit the US Country charts and #5 in 1971, “You’re Looking at Country.” The girl who made it cool to be country and stormed a nation with her blunt, honest lyrics kept the hit songs and favorites coming.

     

Loretta and Ernie reminisced about Tootsie’s Organ Bar and led into the 1975 #2 tale about love grown cold, “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill” and 1971’s “I Wanna Be Free.” All decked out in a sparkly lavender dress rightly fit for country music’s reigning queen, Loretta Lynn kept the humor and music going strong.  People in the audience handed off flowers to her, while others hollered out requests and compliments. She did, indeed, look very lovely as she belted out tune after tune, never wavering or weakening, 

 
Lynn and Ernie kept the audience chuckling with jokes about all the stills there were in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, her Indian and Irish roots, drinking moonshine, and her husband’s drinking days. She is Johnson County, Kentucky’s main claim to fame, and she continues to reference her beloved childhood home.

 
Proving that a woman scorned never forgets, she offered “Fish City” with plenty of enthusiasm. It seems she wrote the song as a put down/warning to a rival who was after her husband “Do Little” years ago. After singing the song, she and Ernie threw comments back and forth about how the rival showed up when “Do” had been bedridden for many years, both legs amputated from diabetes. Lynn and her boy told how the woman held his hand, and how he smiled and said how good she looked when she left. Ernie said he was “out riding her daughter,” to which Loretta commented that she was going to “kill him after the show.” That bit got everyone laughing.

 
As the night progressed, Lynn’s voice proved stronger and better than ever. Years of singing have improved her voice, and she belted out “Here I Am Again” with natural vibrato and zest. She followed with “One’s on the Way” and “The Pill” together, while she counted out the babies who now grace the stage with her.

 
The band got her a chair, and she looked like a queen on her throne. However, she did not stay there for more than five minutes, finishing out the show they way she started it; on her feet. She really shone on the house wife’s anthem “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin on Your Mind),” the first of 16 number one hits.

     

Lynn shared front and center with her back-up singers, “The Coalettes,” who sang Blake Shelton’s “Don’t Go Loving on Nobody But Me” and two Eagles songs, “Bye Bye Baby, for Now” and “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” The Coalettes are a definite plus to her act, adding the subtle sounds that round out country music so well. She said one of them, whose name sounded like “Bart,” has been with her 27 years. These guys need their own website because they are a class act.

Loretta and Ernie performed “Feelins” (pronounced “feeluns”), with Ernie standing in for Conway Twitty who shared the album with Lynn. Ernie smoothed out the romantic parts by changing a few words so the song would not seem inappropriate for mother and son to share. They both made numerous references to Twitty, who actually passed away at the hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where Lynn’s husband was staying. According to the Lynns, Twitty had stopped in to see Moony when he himself suffered a stomach aneurism and died right there in the hospital  Lynn shared the truth and sadness of the event with the audience and shared a bit of her own grief over it, explaining that Moony died a few years after that.

She lightened the tone with saying that her husband did not like her next song, “Your Squaw is on the War Path Tonight,” but that he “ran all the way to the bank” when it hit #1. Loretta’s granddaughter (Ernie’s daughter) came out and sang, and Loretta said she is the one who was her companion and source of comfort when Moony passed away.

Ernie kept up his rogue image by talking about having five wives and seven kids with “They all have their own mama.” That is when his own mama resorted to calling him “Ernest Ray.”

Then, Loretta commented on the beauty of the Coronado and said they do not make places like it anymore just before a glowing tribute to her father, “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy.” In the song, she talks about how they ate a lot of beans and bacon, but her daddy never took a handout.

After “Honky Tonk Girl,” she gave the audience a song that inspired attendees that night; “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.” Earlier, a group of girls proudly showed up to the show with the song’s title written on their t-shirts. The Coalettes joined Lynn up front again to sing a gospel medley that included two of her own gospel songs “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven But Nobody Wants to Die” and “Who Says God is Dead?” followed by Moise Lister’s traditional “Where No One Stands Alone.”

The gospel medley was one highlight in an evening filled with wonderful things, and Lynn made sure she finished the night with “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” making the audience wait patiently for that one, even though they yelled out requests for it throughout the night.

Although she shared memories of her childhood, she focused more on her life with her husband and the times they shared; after all, she only had 13 years to remember back home, but she had 50 years with the man who stole her heart and inspired so many of her hits. Set in what is now known as The Coronado Performing Arts Center, Lynn’s show was similar to the theatre performances of the old Opry, bringing Rockfordians an authentic taste of that down home country music.

       
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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