Loretta Lynn gives all that can be asked of her
Loretta Lynn’s voice was as big as her wardrobe at her sold-out Greensboro show. (photo by Ryan Snyder)
“Honey, I know I ain’tperfect, but I do everythingI can to make myselflook great,” Loretta Lynnresponded to an adoringcrowd during her performanceat the War MemorialAuditorium. The 78-year-oldunquestionable Queen ofCountry Music stood therefor the first 15 minutes of hershow, decked out in a sparklingflavescent-and-cream-coloredprincess gown thatflowed all the way to thefloor. It’s a look that she’sauthoritatively owned formost of her nearly 50-yearcareer, and one that hasaged just as gracefully asshe has. When Lynn’s variousphysical ailments startedacting up — her 2006shoulder surgery hasleft her with prolongeddiscomfort, and shecomplained her kneeswere giving her trouble—she politely withdrewto a chair for the majorityof the show. Her voice,nonetheless, seemedunaffected. She sang“Here I Am Again” witha note of demonstrativevulnerability, and immediately assumed an air ofimposing self-assurance for “You Ain’t WomanEnough (To Take My Man),” all while seated in achair completely swallowed up in the billows ofher gown.There were repeated shouts of adoration fromthe predominantly female audience. “We loveyou!,” was the sold-out room’s mantra. “And Ilove you too,” she’d respond. “Every single oneof you.” Her preternatural connection with herfemale audience isn’t exactly hard to explain.She cemented her legacy as a feminist icon whenshe released “The Pill” in 1975 after years afteralready writing from a distinctly self-liberatedpoint of view, and not one iota of the respect thatsong earned her has faded, as its final line wasmet with an outburst of high-pitched whoopingand applause.Relating to Lynn, however is easy regardless ofpersuasion. She’s an undeniably motherly figurewhen she sits there with mic in hand, regaling theaudience with stories from her past and engagingin a jokey repartee with her son Ernest Rayand bandleader Bart Hansen. Her show is like anautobiographical narration of her personal life andcareer. She taked about her friend Garth Brooks,calling him the greatest entertainer alive, andmentioned how much she was looking forward tohis return to performing. Among others, she toldstories of the death of her close friend ConwayTwitty, who was on his way to visit her husbandDoo in the hospital when he himself collapsedand died from an aneurysm. Other times, she was shattering the moodthrough corny jokes with Ernest Ray, “Hee Haw”style. She joked on Ernest’sdecades of hard living andpassed the spotlight to himfor a slightly off-color jokeevery now and then. She getsa lot of flak for how muchshe features her children,and while Patsy and Peggy’sopening mini-set was asvanilla as could be, Ernestdoes have a distinct charmabout him. He crooned TobyKeith’s “As Good as I OnceWas” like an inebriate at anopen-mic night, and his haggardvoice and deportmentare the perfect comic foil toLynn’s matronly stature. Lynn did show her agesomewhat during the show’slast act. There are built-inreprieves for her to catch hervoice and recover from theconstant effort she gives elsewhere. She invitedHansen to sing one, which he offered up BlakeShelton’s “Nobody But Me,” with a near-perfectcountry baritone: rich and gentle on the bottomend, though slightly pitchy up top. Hansen andher band spelled her once again with a somewhatthin harmonizing of “Man of Constant Sorrow”that segued into a gospel medley of songs fromLynn’s 1965 release Hymns. She was back on herfeet and joining in when it came to “Where NoOne Stands Alone.” At its conclusion, she thanked the audienceas the band broke into the intro to “Coal Miner’sDaughter,” which sent the audience to its feet inapplause. Normally the encore, Lynn’s conditionprevented the processionary that normallyaccompanies it, so she simple faced the audience,bowed slightly and issued what would have beena curtsy if her knees allowed. It was an acknowledgmentof both her appreciation for her adoringlisteners and of her imperfections, but like shesaid, she’s doing the best she can.