Coal Miner's Daughter
Though it was her 16th studio release, Loretta Lynn's most enduring album, Coal Miner's Daughter, came just eight years after her debut. The album was built atop the success of its now-iconic title track, which Lynn wrote in 1969 and released in 1970, telling the true story of her upbringing in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and showing in plain terms the poverty that afflicted her family. Well-received upon its release, the track was the only single off Coal Miner's Daughter and went on to earn countless accolades, including a 2001 "Song of the Century" honor from the RIAA and a 2009 addition to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. It's also the perfect encapsulation of Lynn's strengths as both a songwriter and vocalist, pairing a deeply vulnerable lyric with one of the most raw, emotional vocal performances from Lynn's vast catalog.
The album itself is also widely considered to be a landmark—not just of country music but of any genre. Produced by frequent Lynn collaborator Owen Bradley, the LP features a number of covers and outside songs by artists like Conway Twitty ("Hello Darlin'"), Kris Kristofferson ("For the Good Times"), and Marty Robbins ("Too Far"), as well as one of the more beloved versions of the Gene MacLellan classic "Snowbird," once again showing Lynn to be just as masterful at interpreting the songs of others as she is at writing her own. Accordingly, Coal Miner's Daughter focuses more on Lynn's strengths as a vocalist and performer than it does her songwriting, though the album does feature another Lynn original, "What Makes Me Tick," and a Lynn and Lorene Allen co-write, "Any One, Any Worse, Any Where." Assembled during a particularly fruitful period in Lynn's multi-decade career, the LP includes several tracks culled from earlier sessions, including those of 1969's Woman of the World/To Make a Man and 1970's Wings Upon Your Horns.
As its title track quickly became synonymous with Lynn, Coal Miner's Daughter also went on to share a title with two other projects key to understanding her legacy: Lynn's 1976 autobiography and its 1980 movie adaptation, which starred Sissy Spacek. While Lynn's vast catalog is certainly worth plumbing, close listening to Coal Miner's Daughter offers an intimate look at one of the foremost pillars of country music, an artist with the rare ability to write enduring classics and to interpret the songs of others as though they were classics of her own.