Nearly 53 years ago, Loretta Lynn, the Queen of Country Music, released her debut album Loretta Lynn Sings. Ever since, she has led a successful career as a groundbreaking singer and songwriter, eclipsing eras and continually releasing new music. And at the young age of 83 years, Loretta Lynn has released her 54th studio album with Full Circle. Released through Sony Legacy and produced by Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash (son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash), Full Circle brings forth 13 songs: new recordings of old hits, and covers of famous folk songs Lynn grew up singing. The album moves with ease between traditional country sounds and the sounds of Appalachian folk music.
The album begins with a quick introductory story of Loretta Lynn explaining how she wrote her first ever song, “Whispering Sea.” A song she wrote while fishing and preparing for her first album. Naturally, Lynn’s recording of “Whispering Sea” follows. And for 83 years old, Loretta Lynn sounds fantastic on this album. She holds notes, sounds confident, and sings like she hasn’t aged. “Whispering Sea” tells the story of a young heartbroken girl who takes her boat out to sea in order to cry. Accompanied by a steel guitar and violin, the ballad sounds straight out of the 1960s. The first cover on the album is “Secret Love.” Originally recorded by Doris Day in the 1950s, the song details a young girl in love who works up the courage to tell the world. Loretta Lynn does her best to capture Doris Day in her vocals and provides a great cover of the song.
“Who’s Gonna Miss Me” is a new song penned by Lynn. The song is about Loretta wondering what her legacy will be like once she’s gone, questioning if she lived her life to its potential, and above all else, wondering who will miss her? The chorus gets a little repetitive, but it’s hard to not like the sentiment, combined with excellent country melody. Loretta Lynn covers two songs written by A.P. Carter of The Carter Family. The first being “Black Jack David.” The folk song details the story of Black Jack David, a rambler who meets a young girl in the woods and charms her into abandoning her family and running away with him. Between Loretta Lynn’s vocals and the bluegrass melody, this recording is one of my favorites of Full Circle.
Loretta Lynn touches on religion a few times, with the first time being “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven.” This is another song that gets repetitive, but the lyrics talk about how everyone wants to wind up in heaven, yet no one wants to die and would rather keep living. Another cover song Loretta Lynn beautifully records is “Always on My Mind.” A classic love song recorded by Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson, among many others, Lynn keeps the song’s traditional arrangement in check and provides her excellent vocals to the lyrics. “Wine into Water” is another religious song recorded by Lynn. This ballad acts like a prayer with Lynn begging the Lord to help her turn her wine back into water. She’s in pain with the way her actions have hurt the ones she’s loved, and needs help in correcting her ways. This is a classic country topic and she delivers the story with conviction and strength.
“In the Pines” is another traditional folk song whose various versions have been recorded by several people, including Lead Belly, country great Bill Monroe and even Nirvana. Again, Lynn’s vocals knock this song out of the park. “Band of Gold” is a song with a great classic country sound including a slick steel guitar ring. Lynn sings about truly only wanting a wedding ring from her man, to show off their firm commitment to one another. “Fist City” is a re-recording of the hit from Lynn’s 1968 album of the same name. Loretta Lynn brings out her sass in this country rocker. Here, she warns another woman about coming into town to try to steal her man. If the woman tries anything, Loretta Lynn isn’t afraid to fight for her man.
The second Carter Family cover is “I Never Will Marry.” The song tells the story of woman whose man has left her. She feels that she’ll never marry again and decides to take her life in her sorrow. The dark nature of the lyrics are in contrast to the happier sounding guitar strums, but as you listen to the lyrics, you can sense the impending heartbreak. Full Circle ends with two collaborations. The first is another new song called “Everything It Takes.” This is a mid-tempo folk song with Elvis Costello providing vocal harmonies. It’s another song where Loretta Lynn warns her man about another woman wanting to steal him from her. And while he may see this other woman as a catch, Loretta Lynn isn’t afraid to hide how she feels about her. The album ends with a Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson duet called “Lay Me Down.” The song details how life can take its toll on a person, and how they’ll find peace when they’re finally laid down. It’s a poignant song as two of country’s still living legends sing about death, but the delivery from the two is excellent. I can think of no more appropriate song to close out Full Circle than this one.
Full Circle is an excellent offering from Loretta Lynn. Her vocals sound strong on every song. The album is like a time machine back to the early eras of country music and folk, and it delivers on that front. Full Circle showcases what Loretta Lynn does best: her singing, her attitude, and the beauty of her country music. It had been 12 years since Lynn’s last studio album release, and I think it’s a real possibility that this could possibly be her last release of new recordings. From the recording of the first song she’s ever written, to capturing her spirit and attitude throughout the album, and ending with a song like “Lay Me Down,” Full Circle fits as the name for this album. It’s not like Lynn is slowing down yet as she’s still touring, but it’s still nice to get one more album of vintage Loretta Lynn.