White Christmas Blues
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
It may not have been the comeback of the year, but there is no question that Loretta Lynn’s Full Circle was an unexpectedly successful return to form. That’s because it was the country legend’s first set in the 12 years since her previous release of new music, the terrific Jack White produced Van Lear Rose. The songs on Full Circle, and certainly the title, implied it might be Lynn’s final recording. Therefore, the appearance of this Christmas follow-up, her second such collection of holiday cheer after 1966’s A Country Christmas, comes as a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Recorded at the same Full Circle sessions by producer/daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, these 11 tunes (the closing “Twas the Night Before Christmas” recitation doesn’t count as a song) find Lynn balancing the sweet and spirited tendencies that have defined her career. Which means that along with moldy seasonal chestnuts like “Jingle Bells,” “White Christmas,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” Lynn tosses in her own sassy “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus” (one of two re-recordings of originals from the 1966 collection) and the newly written title track that finds her upset with a MIA partner on Christmas Eve (“I should be saying ho, ho, ho instead boo hoo hoo”). The latter makes a logical companion to an energetic version of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas,” another update of a selection from the earlier set (there are five others).
This production is stripped down but not stark, eschewing the schlocky backing vocals that date and bog down its 50 year old predecessor. Lynn now in her mid-80s, is also in remarkably spry voice. You never feel she’s going through the motions, even on the most overdone classics, or that this is mere product to tread water in the marketplace.
At just over a half hour, we could use twice as much music and since the ’66 album is still available, the duplication of half of these tracks is well, repetitious. None of that matters though when you’re in the Christmas spirit, and even if there are few revelations, you can do a lot worse than spend your holiday with a perfectly enjoyable collection from one of country music’s undisputed icons.