Once the undisputed queen of country music, darling of Nashville and heir apparent to Patsy Cline, these days, Loretta Lynn's music is hard to find on mainstream country radio. Compared to the clean, faux-country pop of modern starlets, Lynn's controversial classics and hard-edged 2004 album, Van Lear Rose, seem, well, too country for country. In 2000, while supporting an album titled Still Country, she dismissed Shania Twain and Faith Hill as pop stars afraid to cause trouble.
While there are any number of talented songwriters and musicians performing traditional C&W, Lynn is arguably the most prominent, the most iconic and, even at 73, perhaps the most relevant. She won two Grammys, including Best Country Album, for Van Lear Rose. In June, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She's currently writing and recording material for two new albums: a trio effort with her sisters Crystal Gayle and Peggy Sue, and a retrospective recorded with John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June.
Oh, yeah, and she's still touring. You'd think a legendary performer 60 years into a career would be playing concert halls, if not amphitheaters. Lynn probably could fill those venues. However, she's mostly playing honky tonks and roadhouses.
She sang 30 miles outside of Fort Worth, at a venue called Billy Bob's Texas -- billed as "The World's Largest Honky Tonk" -- while fellow legend George Jones played the downtown Nokia Theater. When it came time to schedule a Philly date, she ignored the entire metro area, playing in tiny Jim Thorpe, Pa. On Friday, she'll play out at the Pepsi Roadhouse in Burgettstown (where Jones also performed recently). Dinner is included with the ticket -- I guess the Carnegie Music Hall wouldn't spring for chicken.
This tour has been a family act for Lynn. Besides her 10-piece band, the aforementioned sisters have been joining her for a few numbers, along with whatever extended family is around. At one recent show, even her 10-year-old granddaughter got in on the act, turning in a no-doubt surreal rendition of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." A more sobering occurrence at recent shows has been Lynn's need to sit for most of her set, the result of a recent back operation.
Still, sitting or standing, at a concert hall or a honky tonk, this is Loretta Lynn. This is the coal-miner's daughter. This is the queen of country music. This is a living legend we're lucky to still have on the road.
Plus, there's that chicken dinner.
Loretta Lynn with special guest. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Dec. 5 (5:30 p.m. doors; dinner served 5:30-8:30 p.m.). Pepsi Roadhouse, 565 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. $85-105 (includes dinner and parking). 724-947-1900 or www.pepsiroadhouse.com
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