STORY AND PHOTOS BY MAX BLAU
If all the signs appear to be true, Tennessean country legend Loretta Lynn may be on the verge of a late-career renaissance. She’s adamantly stated recently that she’s not done making music, and she seems to have a few plans up her sleeves (including one with Merle Haggard and possibly others). All this talk aside, none of it has phased Lynn live, as evidenced by her impressive show at Chastain Park Amphitheatre Friday night.
Her focus remained entirely on her fans’ experience, giving them the best possible, drawing an audience that nearly filled up three-quarters of Chastain Park’s capacity. Her daughters, Patsy and Peggy, showed off their talents during their first few songs, while prompting the crowd to buy Loretta merchandise.
Loretta Lynn soon took her rightful place onstage, and as she made her way through her set, she stopped in between songs, chatting with her audience and imploring them to requests songs.
“What do you want to hear?,” she said. “It’s your show.”
It was a question posed at least three different times throughout the night, and resulted in Lynn’s show naturally being filled with classics. She played her staples “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “You’re Looking at Country” and “Fist City,” as well as some deeper gospel cuts.
Dressed in one of her trademark blue gowns, Lynn mostly stood still during her set (one of her bandmates joked that was because the dress weighed more than her), sticking closely to her guns and letting her incredible voice do the talking. One of her backup singers even commented to the Tennessean singer that she sounded better than she has in a long time. She glibly snapped back, asking if he was looking for a raise.
Her band, The Coal Miners, deserved it on this particular night. The octet, led by guitarist/vocalist Bart Hanson, elevated the show’s dynamic to another level, filling in around her shortcomings as an aging artist–which includes necessary mid-performance rests and, voice aside, a relatively forgettable stage presence.
The Coal Miners picked up the slack, and harkened back to recall some of Lynn’s finer moments. Hanson filled Conway Twitty’s iconic role as the two performed “Lead Me On.” Lynn’s steel pedal player, Charlie Archer, originally played with Twitty for years, and helped accentuating numerous key moments within last night’s performance.
Toward the end of Lynn’s set, she continued her back-and-forth banter with the crowd, threatening to berate former President Jimmy Carter if he wasn’t in the audience supporting her. “I wonder if Jimmy Carter came to see me tonight,” she quipped. “If not he’s goin’ to hear from me.”
After nearly finishing her set, Lynn and her band performed the song nearly everyone had waited for–her classic single and unofficial anthem, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Although the rest of her set was solid–albeit relatively short and a bit unpolished–there’s nothing like a legend reaffirming one’s belief in her work with the single performance of a single song.
That’s exactly what happened during the waning moments of the 80-year-old country star’s evening in Atlanta. It’s indicative of Lynn’s music–many of her songs are simply undeniable. Above all–between the individual songs and stage banter–Loretta Lynn proved that she very likely will continue to be Queen of Country Music for a while to come.
(Check out our photo gallery from the show.)