Loretta Lynn

Where to start with Loretta Lynn? Whether it's her Grand Ole Opry heyday in the '60s, 2004's Jack White-assisted crossover Van Lear Rose or the mighty heap of controversy and country smashes in between, everyone feels a connection to some song or era of hers. Even casual listeners must remember Sissy Spacek's Oscar-winning portrayal of Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter, and longtime fans continue to relish her headstrong presence on tunes that range from tragic portraits to throwaway ditties. Like Dolly Parton, it seems as if Lynn has simply always been there, hovering over country music like a diligent hostess no matter the prevailing trends. As she approaches her 75th birthday and remains devoted to touring, she's readying a new album for release this year as well as a batch of re-recorded career highlights. Even today, her voice can still shimmer, quake, sashay and weep as she gets meticulously under the skin of everything she sings.

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Doug Wallen