LORETTA LYNN Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
In which Jack White does for country music what he and Meg did for the blues, in the process contributing to the most startling sexagenarian reinvention since Rick Rubin persuaded Johnny Cash to sing him some of his favourite songs. The respectful gentleman from Detroit here gives Lynns music an edgy, muscular undertow and a craggy, back-to-basics simplicity, a transfusion that leaves it electrically invigorated.
White (You all have heard of him and little Meg, and if not you will soon! gushes Loretta approvingly in the booklet) brings a crackling, ambient drone to Portland Oregon, pleasantly reminiscent of an Elephant outtake in sound if not in story: at times its almost as if Megs granny were deputising in The White Stripes, a confusingly cross-generational experience. Trouble On The Line balances the albums more raucous, distorted moments with the more traditional sounds of weeping pedal steel and gently brushed percussion, and the bitter broken family tale of Family Tree is social commentary Opry style. Have Mercy is The Sun Sessions cranked up to 11, a cavernous thumper that suggests both Elv The Pelv and The Big O.
The almost literally arresting narrative Little Red Shoes shouldnt distract from the glorious backing music if Simon & Garfunkel had followed Dylan to Nashville . God Makes No Mistakes might be the albums least digestible offering, depending on the listeners religious persuasion, but its starkly juxtaposed with the self-explanatory Womens Prison (and, in the case of the latter, even within itself, a mumbled verse of Amazing Grace briefly quieting the glorious ruckus of country garage (barn?) rock). The foggy bottleneck intro to Mrs. Leroy Brown is so pungent you can practically taste it, heralding a performance thats equal parts Mary Chapin Carpenter and Janis Joplin.
Perhaps therein lies the real genius of Van Lear Rose. Simultaneously as old as the hills and more modern than next week, its a great album if you like country music, and its a great album if you dont. It cannot fail.