White out Jack White's name as producer and collaborator, and Loretta Lynn's latest probably flies under the radar and into the discount bins sooner than later. Such is the usual fate of the country legend deemed too old for radio or resurrection at this late date. Never mind her stature or the disc's status as one of the finest additions to a catalog dipped in platinum and preserved in amber; ask only George Jones or Merle Haggard, still out there kicking against the pricks and coming up with stubbed toes. But just as Rick Rubin gave life to Johnny Cash's career during his final decade by helping him make vestigial country-blues out of vital modern rock, the White Stripe puts Lynn in Rolling Stone and likely on the radio and on the charts with an ass-kicking, name-taking, heartbreaking album that sounds like all of Lynn's glory days put in a time machine and transported to day after tomorrow. Simply put, it's classic and then some--worthy of being anointed "masterpiece" and destined to outlive its of-the-moment hype as welcome and unexpected comeback.
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She wrote the songs, every damned one of 'em, and lived 'em, too: "This Old House" recalls "the love that lived and died inside these walls," surely an allusion to her late husband, Doo, dead some eight years. He's there, too, as co-writer ("Trouble on the Line") and as Lynn sings of how she misses being a missus as she lies in "a bed of memories" and slips her wedding band from her left hand to her right; "I miss being Mrs. tonight," she sings while White strums the guitar like a folkie trying to fill the arena. The record can be wicked (in "Portland Oregon," Jack and Loretta get together for a one-night fling fueled by sloe gin fizzes) and mean (she kills her cheatin' husband and rents a limo to confront his mistress), and it can be warm and homey, like when she tells the "Story of My Life" and gives it the happiest of endings despite getting cheated by Hollywood and heaven. In White she's found collaborator and co-conspirator--a rocker who strips away the honey in which she once drowned and leaves only a handful of stingers, and a friend to whom she tells her most intimate tales. The coal miner's daughter gives us a diamond, and it is priceless.