Still Woman Enough
2021• COUNTRY • LEGACY
On her forty-sixth album, Loretta Lynn still manages to deliver catchy and fun songs without giving up her skills as a composer, which has always delivered vivid lyrics.
At 88 years of age, country singer Loretta Lynn titled her forty-sixth album as Still Woman Enough. A title much more than appropriate for the artist who, with 50 years of career and who changed the whole country music scene worldwide, generating new possibilities for women of the genre, appears to show that she is still strong and determined enough. Accompanied by young country singers, who had their career doors squeezed by her, Lynn, on her first full album since 2016’s Full Circle, mixes a little of the new and a little of the old with attitude in a project she called “celebration of women in country music.
Putting together re-recordings of old songs, reinterpretations, and brand new material, Loretta Lynn, alongside Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, and Margo Prince, delivers her third-best project since the 2000s, lagging behind 2016’s Full Circle and 2004’s Van Lear Rose. Still delivering songs with a vision that boasts the simple side of life, but now also with a stronger, more determined, and visionary fist, Lynn also shows minimalist tracks that at no time are no longer pleasant, fun, or catchy. While guitars, banjos, and drums play simple yet associative melodies and harmonies, Loretta looks back on the past with affection, giving an even deeper meaning to her old songs, as well as looking to the future, with a sense of pride in everything she has done so far. Although not as powerful as other works by her and other artists who are on the same level, Still Woman Enough is still a great and beautiful testimony of a life that is still very much enjoyed.
The opener, the title track of the album, is one of the strongest. Along with McEntire and Underwood, Loretta delivers the most mature composition on the record. Here, alongside a heavier and darker instrumental, she sings about her past and present, both facts that lead her to the conclusion that she “still woman enough, still got what it takes inside.” This is one of the best songs that Loretta has composed in recent times, featuring a mature version that suits both an 80-year-old lady and a 30-year-old girl, carrying a timeless feeling. She sings, “I know how to love, lose, and survive/Ain’t much I ain’t seen, I ain’t tried/Been knocked down but never out of the fight/I’m strong but I’m tender, wise but I’m tough.” Like Bruce Springsteen and his analysis of his life in last year’s Letter to You, here Loretta delivers an appropriate song to an experienced person who knows very-well both the world and herself.
The best songs on Still Woman Enough are the ones that carry a maturity that Loretta has never shown so strongly in her career as she is demonstrating now. Interestingly, these songs are the new material, which was probably written during 2019 and 2020, when Lynn went on a hiatus after suffering a stroke. Within this group, we can quote “I Don’t Feel at Home Any More,” which despite its lively instrumental, has lyrics that carry a somewhat obscure meaning even though it sings as a relief. “If Heaven’s not my home, oh Lord, what will I do/The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door/And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore,” she sings. On the other side of the coin, “Old Kentucky Home,” which shows Lynn acclaiming the simplicity of country life, and “Keep on the Sunny Side,” which counts as relatively silly handwriting, are very cheerful and smooth, despite the simplicity and lack of personality, which is already recurrent in the country music. These songs, despite nothing so interesting, are very sweet and entertaining.
On the other hand, the weakest songs on the album are the ones that Lynn decided to re-record. This is because most of these songs are almost 50 years old and come from a time that does not quite match Loretta’s current moment in life. While “One’s On The Way,” with Margo, and “I Wanna Be Free,” despite their qualities, are very weak and even forgettable, “Honky Tonk Girl,” appears with vivid lyrics, such as could only be seen in country music, and “Where No One Stands Alone,” carries strong, sweet and beautiful vocals. However, they seem a little out of context with Lynn’s current life. Ironically the best on the album is “Coal Miner’s Daughter (Recitation),” a reinterpretation of the title track of the 1971 album, with Loretta talking about her childhood, about her father and mother, with great affection. It’s a very honest and beautiful piece that warms the heart.
In the final stretch of the album, we also have very beautiful cuts too. While “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight,” a serenade about enjoying the moment, sounds sweet, “I Saw the Light” shows her in another moment in contact with God. However, while the last but one of the album is a bit forgettable, the last track, “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” with Tucker, is relatively the problem of the record because it simply does not agree with everything that Loretta preached not only here but in the last years of her life. Here she talks about a woman not being enough to take the man away from her as if that were really a way of measuring how enough a woman is. And even though it’s a good duet, it’s kind of anticlimactic. But still, it doesn’t detract from Loretta, her album, and everything she’s has done for women in music.