Songs of Inspiration – Loretta Lynn

| April 14, 2005

Loretta Lynn was born in Butcher Hollow Kentucky in 1934. She married at 13 and raised six children, and you had better believe that Loretta Lynn was a singer of songs that praised the lord. Like many country stars she was at least as comfortable singing songs from church as her popular hits, and Songs of Inspiration captures a selection of some of her best.
Lynn released the critically acclaimed Van Lear Rose in 2005, but she started out singing real honky tonk music. After making a break in 1960, Loretta Lynn ended up with the Wilburn brothers, who managed her and made her a regular on their weekly television show. That’s where the performances on Songs of inspiration are from.
Loretta Lynn sang with the Wilburn Brothers from 1963 to 1974. There was a weekly “hymn,” in the show, and she was often called upon for a gospel song. The songs are sung full and clear, with the confidence in the tunes that come with familiarity. Not all the songs are “old-time” gospel, though. In keeping with the times and keeping the young folks interested contemporary favorites were featured as well. During He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands there are kids on the stage. It’s a wonderful thing to hear the older tunes sung with banjo or steel guitar, and the Wilburn Brothers join in with tight harmonies. How Great Thou Art sounds pure and strong, and Angel Band is so true it really reminds the listener that life’s real reward lies in the hereafter, so get through the hard times and know things are going to turn around.
The Wilburn Brothers gave a lot of country artists their start. They had come up as a child act, with siblings dropping in and out of the act. By the time they got their T.V. show in 1963 they were well into their careers. Theirs was one of the first country music shows broadcast in color, and Loretta Lynn looks great. Throughout the DVD the shots fade in and out from tight close ups. It’s the same school of musical broadcast that brought us Lawrence Welk, and there are, despite the separate genres, a lot of similarities between these particular performances and the king of champagne music. Sometimes Lynn is on her own, but sometimes the Wilburn brothers join her, and even Grandpa Jones joins in. The country pedigree is impeccable.
Songs of Inspiration is just that. Songs. There’s not much in the way of set up, and this DVD doesn’t have any behind the scenes action or chatter before or after the pieces. I would have liked to see a little more contextually, but in truth these songs stand on their own. Fans of Loretta Lynn and fans of they heyday of the golden age of television musical variety shows will find this a good supplement to their collection. At one point Lynn sings “I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame.” She got both, it seems.

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