Loretta Lynn has titled her first album in a dozen years Full Circle partly because she opens the 14-song collection with Whispering Sea, the first song she ever wrote, back in the late 1950s.
But Full Circle also extends a long line of vibrant, wholly distinctive albums based on Lynn’s unique story, her recognisable rural voice and her highly personal way of writing about her feelings about the world she inhabits.
Produced by Patsy Lynn Russell (her daughter) and John Carter Cash (son of Johnny and June Carter Cash), the album relies on a melodic bed of acoustic instruments with gentle touches of steel guitar, drums and the occasional piano.
The old-school sound focuses attention on Lynn, who, at 83, sounds amazingly good. Not only does she retain nearly all of her range and vocal strength, but her ability to breath feeling into what she’s saying remains one of her greatest attributes.
She offers a few originals, including Everything It Takes, co-written with singer-songwriter Todd Snider with harmonies by Elvis Costello. There’s also a duet with Willie Nelson on Lay Me Down, one of many gospel numbers. But the best songs are among the most unexpected, such as her poignant take on T. Graham Brown’s prayerful Wine Into Water and a rousing version of the folk classic Black Jack David.