Judge Paul Corupe is also a coal miner's daughter...son. I mean son.
Our review of The Queens Of Country, published June 10th, 2009, is also available.
Who Says God is Dead?
One of the most innovative and popular female country artists of the 20th century, Loretta Lynn kick-started her career in 1961 with the release of her first single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," on a small Louisiana-based label. Lynn and her husband tirelessly promoted the record to DJs, sending the song up the charts and eventually convincing renowned sibling country crooners the Wilburn Brothers to invite Lynn to cut some demos. Once signed to Decca, she began to crank out a series of honky tonk chart hits throughout much of the decade, and relocated to Nashville to become a regular guest on the Wilburn's country music TV variety show. As Lynn grew more self-possessed, her style also matured, incorporating a no-nonsense proto-feminist perspective exemplified by songs like "You Ain't Woman Enough," "Woman of the World," and "Fist City." In the mid-1970s, Lynn's published her rags-to-riches autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, which became the basis for an Academy award-winning film in 1980, and assured her place as one of the biggest superstars of country music. In 2004, after almost two decades out of the spotlight, Lynn even managed an unlikely comeback with "Van Lear Rose," a critically acclaimed album produced by The White Stripe's Jack White.
With Lynn's star once again on the rise, she's the perfect candidate for DVD treatment. Taken from TV footage of The Wilburn Brothers Show, MPI's DVD, Loretta Lynn: Songs of Inspiration, offers up 21 scintillating gospel cuts by Lynn recorded in the prime of her career:
• How Great Thou Art
Debuting in 1963 and running for more than a decade, The Wilburn Brothers Show was a syndicated country and western variety show that helped launch many Nashville careers, including Lynn's. Although the material on this DVD seems mostly taken from early Lynn performances on the show, with little evidence of the distinct personality that she became known for later on, the vocal performances are still quite excellent and will please any Lynn fan. Soaring steel guitar and fiddle complement Lynn's gentle but forceful voice, giving these songs a charismatic, fire and brimstone wallop. Lynn's set list features far more contemporary songs than classic hymns, but for every whimsical track like "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die)" and "Who Says God is Dead?" Lynn tackles a heavily dogmatic track like "Third Man," which even cuts away to paintings of the crucifixion. Corn-fed highlights of the set include "In the Sweet By and By" and "I'm Getting to Go," while more typical fare like "He's got the Whole World in His Hands" is less impressive.
Visually, this compilation of performances is far from stirring, however. There's very little going on with Lynn, who is usually standing perfectly still against a pitch black background or stage curtains. A few segments place her on a fake Southern homestead set, but even here there isn't much to look at, and Lynn's gesticulations are kept to bare minimum. As a result, this might be a good DVD to put on while you're doing something else, as it demands much more of your ears than it does your eyes.
Running a mere 50 minutes, Loretta Lynn: Songs of Inspiration is a nonetheless a cut above most DVDs that simply compile fuzzy public domain material into a cheap, budget-priced package. The transfer is good but not great, with pixelization sometimes intruding on otherwise bright colors and surprising clarity. The mono sound lacks dynamics, but it still comes across clear, with no distortion or hiss. There are no extras at all.
Although not the best digital representation of Lynn's long and varied career, MPI's Loretta Lynn: Songs of Inspiration delivers exactly what it promises, and with a generally pleasing technical presentation, it should satisfy fans of the artist looking to add the coal miner's daughter to their DVD collection.
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