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"What in the Devil Is She Doing With a Rock and Roller?": Loretta Lynn Is a Lifer

Loretta Lynn keeps it rather simple when summing her progression from childhood cabin in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to the illustrious Winspear Opera House, where she performs Sunday night. "It really has been an interesting journey. It's a hard story to believe, but it really is interesting."

Recently removed from not only knee surgery but a case of pneumonia, the elegant Lynn is as comfortable as one can be when discussing the past, present or future of both herself and country music. There was a 2010 collection, Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn, featuring versions of her hits from Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow, but when asked which artists from the current generation are likely to have the staying power, Lynn again keeps it direct.

"Well, it depends on how hard they work. I never let up," she says from a cell phone while driving to Nashville. "Back when I had my twins, I was still in the middle of trying to get things going with my career, so, I just took them with me and kept working. It wasn't easy for me."

Lynn's certainly remained relevant and continued touring, but it seems the lessons she learned as she first gained fame are still cornerstones.

"Artists today have all these people around them, helping them become stars but, like I said, the artist still has to work hard," she says. "I'm talking about writing, promotion, the meeting with the disc jockeys, everything. You can't just throw a record out there and say, 'Hey, make me a star, now.'"

Lynn confounded and delighted many when she released the stellar Van Lear Rose in 2004. The album, produced by Jack White, not only introduced Lynn's music to a new generation but, to hear the "First Lady of Country Music" tell it, was an improvement on her legend.

"Jack helped me cut the countriest record I've ever made," Lynn admits. "He's a rock and roller, but he made me more country. He's such a nice guy, but people wondered, 'What in the devil is she doing with a rock and roller?'"

Not that it mattered much to Lynn. As with everything else she has to say, she puts her thoughts into a no B.S. perspective. "I've been in the business so long that the people who doubted my working with Jack weren't going to make or break me."

While Van Lear Rose was universally praised by critics and provided Lynn with her biggest crossover Billboard success, questions about her next album have been plentiful in the past couple years. There isn't a street date, but Lynn confirmed T Bone Burnett will produce and that she has several songs she either wrote or co-wrote with country songwriter Shawn Camp. Of course, there's one notable collaborator.

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"I had just got off the phone with T Bone the other day," she says. "Right after that, Jack [White] called and said, 'Now, I want to sit in on some of this.' Of course, I wouldn't do the record without Jack being a part of it."

Lynn's story is one of so many which fill up her impeccable catalog of music. Whether it's the boundary-busting feminist anthems of her early days, or the rock and blues feminist anthems of her most recent work, Lynn again keeps her philosophy on creating art as simple yet profound as one can.

"Life doesn't really change, so I just do what I've been doing all along."

Loretta Lynn performs Sunday, January 22, at the Winspear Opera House.

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