Patsy Lynn Russell, daughter of country music matriarch, Loretta Lynn claims her mother “never meant to be a trailblazer.”
“What my mom did, why she was at the forefront of it, was because she told the truth,” Russell explains. “But her truth-telling was completely naïve. ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ was about her, something she was going through. People didn’t talk about or sing about it at the time, but as it turns out others were too. And they appreciated that.”
Lynn, still reigning as the undisputed queen of her genre, released her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” in 1961, the same year she signed her first label deal with Decca. At the time, the-29-year-old artist had been married almost 15 years and had four children. 2021 year marks 50 years since the release of Coal Miner’s Daughter on January 4, 1971 and her fiftieth album—excluding ten she recorded with her early partner Conway Twitty. By that point she had brought two more children into the world, Russell and her twin sister, Peggy Lynn. The two later formed a duo, The Lynns.
Her new studio album, Still Women Enough, released March 19 via Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. Named after her 2002 autobiography, the anniversary collection was recorded primarily at Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee and co-produced by her daughter—Patsy Lynn Russell—and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the things that Patsy and I’ve worked on together,” Loretta tells American Songwriter. “And I’m proud that she was able to make her own way in this business and cut out a piece for herself. She’s always loved the business side of things.”
Russell describes her relationship with Carter Cash similar to siblings. Being in his family’s legendary studio with him, working with her mother on a commemorative process felt like things had come full circle.
“I feel a great responsibility to ensure my mother’s legacy; I use that word a lot, but it’s just the truth,” Russell shares. “The music of artists like Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride and others would be lost unless their recordings are kept intact and in-print for discovery and appreciation by future generations. I feel it’s my job to make sure my mom’s musical legacy never gets lost.”
The album includes Lynn’s take on American traditional music and her country-gospel roots with Stephen Foster’s “Old Kentucky Home,” The Carter Family-popularized “Keep On The Sunny Side,” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light.” Additionally, the artist reframes some of her classic hits from the last half a century, like 1971’s “I Wanna Be Free,” and her defining track, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”—the song she’s most proud of having written.
With the autobiographical Coal Miner’s Daughter, her 1976 memoir and the Oscar-winning 1980 film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek, Lynn introduced the world to a underrepresented aspect of American life. Already a country star with chart-topping singles in the 1960s, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the title track, led to a string of No. 1 hits in the 1970s and became the first Loretta Lynn recording inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
Loretta reunited with director David McClister to collaborate on a short film version of “Coal Miner’s Daughter Recitation.” Shot on location at her ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, Loretta’s new music video includes scenes filmed in her “Butcher Holler” replica home.
Joined by artists like Reba McEntire, Margo Price, Tanya Tucker, and Carrie Underwood—all luminaries in their own right—Lynn celebrates the boundary-breaking generations of female country artists, paving a forward path for future generations.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it makes me happy when young up-and-coming artists tell me how much they’ve loved my music and I have influenced them in some way,” Loretta admits. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep writing and recording as long as I can. I want them to want a 60-year career, but you have to work hard for it.”
Margo Price is a new friendship that developed over the last few years. Jack White, who produced Lynn’s 2004 album, Van Lear Rose—named for the mine where her father worked—introduced Lynn to someone he said, “reminds me a lot of you.” It was Price, an Illinois-native who had lost nearly everything in her road to Nashville before White signed her and agreed to produce her first album.
The two instantly hit it off, both pioneer storytellers that soon discovered another commonality. Right after things were finally headed it the right direction with her career, Price received another blessing, something she had been yearning for for several years, but overlaid with her new trajectory, she wasn’t sure how a baby fit into the fold of road life and record labels. Lynn’s sage response, having balanced six children and a decades-spanning career in the spotlight, reassured Price that she could do both well.
Price first performed “One’s On the Way”—penned by Shel Silverstein and originally recorded by Lynn in 1971—on Lynn’s 85th birthday, then the two kindred spirits re-recorded the track for the anniversary album. “Margo did her own thing, leaving the Loretta in it, but updating a few things,” Russell explains.
“I chose ‘One’s On the Way’ because it’s an important song,” says Price in the behind the scenes video. “It was an important song at at the time, and it’s still an important song. To be able to talk about birth control and women’s rights in country music—it was legendary.”
The legendary artist tapped McEntire and Underwood to perform one of her only original tracks on the new album. “Still Woman Enough,” which Russell co-penned and produced with her mother, shares its title and attitude with Lynn’s 2002 autobiography that Russell also co-wrote. The song and title serve as a playful response to Lynn’s evolution from her seventh studio album, 1966’s You Ain’t Woman Enough. Tanya Tucker joined Lynn to re-record the title track, passing the torch of yet another iconic song from her catalog.
“I am just so thankful to have some of my friends join me on my new album. We girl singers gotta stick together,” says Loretta. “It’s amazing how much has happened in the fifty years since ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ first came out and I’m extremely grateful to be given a part to play in the history of American music.”
Listen to Loretta Lynn’s new album, Still Women Enough, here.
Photo by David McClister