Loretta Lynn – Little Nashville Opry (Nashville, IN)
Perhaps it was the intoxicating effects of the laughing gas, or maybe the tour bus has carbon monoxide buildup, but Loretta Lynn seemed punchy, even recklessly zany at her second of two sold-out shows at the Little Nashville Opry. “My tooth broke off today and I put it in a box of Tic-Tacs until I could get to a dentist,” she told the hootin’ and hollerin’ crowd. “Let’s hear it for Steve the dentist!” The spotlight whizzed to a seat on the far right hand side of the auditorium, and there stood the savior of the day, smilin’ Steve, the tooth fixer-upper.
The show primarily served as a request line, which quickly turned into a scrapbook of Lynn’s greatest hits, including her 1960 single on the Zero label, “Honky Tonk Girl”, and 1972’s “The Pill”, the anthem that celebrated the liberation of women weary of being “breeding sows.” During the first few numbers, including the hushed “Tingle Becomes A Chill”, the room looked like a thunderstorm was brewing as light from hundreds of flashbulbs bounced off the sequins on Lynn’s hot pink pantsuit. Although a series of consecutive concerts had left her a tad hoarse, her voice vibrated with a reassuring strength and warmth on “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “They Don’t Make Them Like My Daddy Anymore”.
Lynn was backed by a fiery 10-piece band, the Coal Miners, which included two vocalists from Conway Twitty’s old group as well as her son, guitarist/vocalist Ernest Ray. The show started slipping downhill when the emphasis veered toward Ray. Lynn took several time-outs in the second half of the set, leaving the stage to her son’s direction. Rhythmically impaired, Ray showed his musical talents have been genetically diluted on the gooey gospel number, “Message From Jesus”. Between songs, his cornball repartee smacked more of a bad mid-’70s variety show than a legendary concert.
While Ray and his daughter Taylor dominated the middle third of the show, Lynn managed to polish off the 70-minute set with a rousing “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ With Lovin’ On Your Mind”, “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which she dedicated to a couple in the last row who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The finest three minutes of the evening arrived at the end. Every ounce of energy exchanged was between Lynn and the audience as she reared back and belted an a cappella version of “How Great Thou Art” that rattled the rafters and shook the foundation. Roses landed onstage, the crowd rose to its feet, women screamed “We love you Loretta,” and everyone forgot about Ernest Ray.