3 Loretta Lynn Deep Cuts All Emmy Russell & ‘American Idol’ Fans Should Know

Emmy Russell is the granddaughter of the late country icon Loretta Lynn. As a result, buzz surrounding her appearance on American Idol began before her audition aired. Fans of the show or Russell’s current work may not be huge country fans and, therefore, may not understand how important Lynn was to the genre. The songs in the list below are timeless and remain favorites among genre fans. However, they were never released as singles.

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Examining Lynn’s album cuts and even steering clear of material that she wrote will shed light on the quality of her work. The songs below are pure gold and were largely used as album filler. This illustrates just how good it had to be for Lynn and her team to decide to release it as a single.

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An Introduction to Emmy Russell’s Iconic Grandma

After years of honing her craft, Loretta Lynn released her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” in March 1960. That single was the beginning of one of the most iconic careers in country music history. She was the first woman to win the Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards, breaking one of the genre’s biggest glass ceilings. She also launched 24 singles and 11 albums to the top of the Billboard country charts. When she passed away in 2022 at the age of 90, she was the most-awarded woman in country music.

[RELATED: Can’t Get Enough of Emmy Russell? Hear 4 Must-Listen Songs From the ‘American Idol’ Favorite]

Throughout her six-decade-long career, Lynn released a laundry list of iconic songs. Nearly every country fan knows “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Fist City” and other classics. However, her catalog is deep and full of overlooked tracks. Here are three you need to hear today.

Three of Loretta Lynn’s Best Deep Cuts

Narrowing this list down to three was a herculean task, to say the least. The three songs below were either never released as singles by Lynn. While she was an accomplished songwriter and penned many of the songs that brought her fame, the following list includes only outside cuts and covers.

“If You Handle the Merchandise” – The Nashville Sound at Its Best

Some of the biggest hits in Lynn’s discography are about unfaithful men and their affair partners. It was something with which she had firsthand experience and she really took the whole “write what you know” thing to heart. This is one of those songs, but she didn’t write it.

[RELATED: ‘American Idol’ Star Emmy Russell Reveals the Pivotal Advice Her Grandmother Loretta Lynn Gave Her]

Penned by Peggy Sue Wells, “If You Handle the Merchandise” was on Lynn’s 1970 album Here’s Loretta Singing “Wings Upon Your Horns.” It has all the hallmarks of a hit song but was never released as a single.

Lyrically, it sees the Coal Miner’s Daughter warning her man to keep his hands off of the woman he’s been eyeing or she’ll leave. Sonically, it is a great example of the Nashville Sound of the early 70s.

Owen Bradley, mastermind of the Nashville Sound produced the album. It included several session musicians hand-selected by the legendary producer including legendary pianists Floyd Cramer and Hargus “Pig” Robbins. The former developed the slip-note style of playing that changed the way country artists approached the instrument. Robbins was Bradley’s go-to piano player. “If You Handle the Merchandise” is a great example of why Robbins remained in high demand until he died in 2022.

“Act Naturally” – Early Loretta Lynn

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos had a No. 1 country hit with “Act Naturally” in 1963. He was the first artist to record the Johnny Russell-penned track. Later that same year, Lynn included it on her debut album Loretta Lynn Sings.

“Act Naturally” is a tongue-in-cheek song about someone who has been hurt and plans to channel that pain into becoming a movie star. They’re gonna put me in the movies. / They’re gonna make a big star out of me. / They’ll make a film about a girl who’s sad and lonely. / And all I gotta do is act naturally.  

This version of “Act Naturally” is one that country fans need to hear. It’s a great song with Lynn’s iconic voice backed by some of the best session musicians Music City has ever seen recorded under the direction of Owen Bradley. In short, it’s country gold.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Loretta Lynn Covers Hank Williams

It doesn’t get much more country—or much better—than Loretta Lynn covering the Hillbilly Shakespeare himself, Hank Williams. Country songs don’t get much more iconic than “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Countless artists have put their stamp on it over the years. Lynn’s version, though, is easily among the best.

Lynn included her version of Williams’ classic heartbreak song on her 1966 album I Like ‘Em Country. Sessions for the album included two legendary steel guitar players—Hal Rugg and Don Helms. Rugg is hailed as one of the best to ever sit behind a pedal steel. Helms played steel in Williams’ band, The Drifting Cowboys. So, it’s likely that we’re hearing Hank’s steel player backing Lynn on one of his former bandleader’s biggest songs.

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