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Loretta LynnLoretta Lynn
Album: Full Circle
Label: Legacy/Sony
Tracks: 14

At the grand age of 83, the queen of country is hereby instigating a projected series of releases (dubbed The Cash Cabin Recordings, and jointly produced by daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and Johnny Cash's son John Carter Cash) looking back at songs that have shaped her career, with Full Circle, her first album since 2004's Van Lear Rose collaboration with Jack White. First, fear not, for she's still in great voice, whatever the material. And the new recordings are straightforward, with unobtrusive yet entirely idiomatic musicianship from Lynn's support crew, enabling faithful presentation both of the essence of Loretta the consummate country artist and of the songs themselves.

These take in the whole gamut of country, starting out with a brand new recording of Loretta's first-ever composition Whispering Sea and moving on into traditional songs recalled from her Kentucky childhood (I Never Will Marry, Black Jack David) and a nice down-home take on In The Pines. Loretta soulfully revisits the rousingly defiant Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven and one of her own strongest compositions Fist City. In between we find typically forthright tell-it-like-it-is renditions of standards (Secret Love, Always On My Mind) and her own candid reflections on the theme of mortality (Who's Gonna Miss Me? coming off exceptionally well in this insightful new recording, and Lay Me Down, a superb duet with Willie Nelson).

A delightful cover of Band Of Gold provides a radio-friendly interlude, and her duet with Elvis Costello on Everything It Takes is as authentic "almost blue" as they come. There's even a couple of new songs here, the pick of which is the plaintively powerhouse Wine Into Water; Loretta's still pushing the boundaries, clearly.

This is plain-spoken no-nonsense uncompromising straight-down-the-line country music-making, from a queen of the genre who's in no danger of slipping off the throne yetawhile. It's a kind of repertoire overview, sure, and I guess a reintroduction to Loretta, but Full Circle also represents a reinvigoration, a new beginning - and that's even more of a cause for celebration. It's sheer quality through and through, and sure to garner plenty more awards to stack up on the hefty pile Loretta's already deservedly accrued over her long career.

David Kidman