Sunday, September 19, 2010

Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert, and Sheryl Crow, "Coal Miner's Daughter"

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the highly-anticipated Loretta Lynn tribute album. (You can start pre-judging it right now on Country Universe)  The 12-track collection will feature appearances from artists chosen by Loretta herself.  These include Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock, Paramore, and the White Stripes, among others.  The first single from the project has been released, and it is a new version of Loretta's signature classic "Coal Miner's Daughter" - a collaboration between Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow, and Loretta herself.

The track kicks off with Loretta singing the famous opening lines:  "Well, I was borned a coal miner's daughter/ In a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler..."  In the middle portion of the song, Miranda and Sheryl trade off verses, and then Loretta returns again to sing the ending of the song.  In several parts, we hear all three women blending their voice together in gorgeous harmony.  Though the instrumentation is nearly identical to that of the original recording, hearing these three vocalists collaborate on the song does give it a fresh new feel.

But while the track is enjoyable to hear, the arrangement doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  "Coal Miner's Daughter" is entirely Loretta's song - her autobiography set to music.  It seems odd to hear Loretta singing her autobiographical classic with two younger singers who can't relate to it in the same way.  Then again, how do you make a Loretta Lynn tribute album without including Loretta's signature song?  And if Loretta herself is the one singing it, then there's really nobody paying tribute to her.  With that in mind, should Miranda or Sheryl have recorded a solo version of the song?  The song does seem to make more sense as a solo, but including Loretta on the track does lend it some authenticity.  It likely would have been difficult for the producers to find a way of doing this that would please everybody.

So, would there have been a better way to handle this?  I can't say, and I'm not up to doing that much thinking right now.  But what I do hear is a country music legend who still sounds just as good as ever, along with two talented artists paying reverential tribute to an artist they love.  This track could just be interpreted as a simple jam session between three friends.  In that case, we might as well just sit back and enjoy it.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)