In 2002, country music legend Loretta Lynn released her memoir Still Woman Enough, reflecting on her journey out of hardscrabble Kentucky and into stardom, with all the triumphs and tragedies between. That book and Lynn’s story gives her new album its title as well as its lone new original song, an affirmation of feminine strength and resilience that she shares with guests Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.
That’s not to say that Still Woman Enough is made of castoffs and nonessential material, though. Produced by John Carter Cash and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell (who also co-wrote the title tune), the project features Lynn’s interpretations of classic country songs from the Carter Family and Hank Williams alongside a handful of traditional tunes and Lynn’s own iconic hits, plus multiple generations of guests who were inspired by her work.
Most of the arrangements here keep things simple, generally leaning on unamplified sounds to complement Lynn’s country-as-grits voice. Lynn’s cover of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” is spiked with lively fiddle, while her takes on “Keep on the Sunny Side” and “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” do it how the Carters might have — just acoustic instruments and close harmonies. When a full band appears, as on the update of her “Honky Tonk Girl,” it hints at the sophistication of the Nashville Sound with piano and pedal steel, but never comes off as overly ornate.
Lynn’s biographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter” undergoes the most radical transformation of her originals, recast here as a Ken Burns-worthy recitation backed by solo banjo. She digs deeper into her catalog for new renditions of “I Wanna Be Free” and “My Love,” but saves her most beloved songs to bring out her remaining guests. In Shel Silverstein’s “One’s on the Way,” Margo Price joins Lynn to swap humorous lines about the many struggles of motherhood, and in the spunky “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” Tanya Tucker adds an appropriately rowdy, smirking presence, almost like a dare: try to take their men, see what happens.
That white-hot spark has always been a major part of Lynn’s appeal, along with her ability to weave the details of her remarkable life into song. “I know how to love, lose, and survive,” Lynn sings in “Still Woman Enough.” Lynn’s journey hasn’t always been an easy one. What’s amazing is that, 60 years into her career, that experience is still feeding her creatively.