Loretta Lynn lived her music before she ever began writing or recording it. She had had over a decade of marriage and raising children before her debut album Loretta Lynn Sings in 1963. But does this first collection of recordings represent the authenticity she brought to country music?
Side A kicks off with Success, so far a very apt beginning. The track had been her first chart single the year before. Lynn’s delivery coupled with the well-developed formula of instrumentation ensure that this is elevated above the self-pitying weepy that it could have been. Instead Success has what almost all Lynn records have: strength, power and an inkling of the self-awareness that many of her most famous and respected songs brought to her fans.
The second track, The Minute You’re Gone, is produced in a much more standard way. It is a slow, longing song, performed competently by Lynn. It shows off her strong vibrato and her feel for conveying the sadness in a song.
As we progress through The Other Woman, Alone With You, Why I’m Walkin’ and The Girl That I Am Now, the rest of this side feels like an exploration through the world of contemporary country music in the early 1960s. These songs are pretty standard, and although Lynn herself penned the last track, the way it is produced doesn’t really do it justice. It doesn’t have quite enough power to convey its emotion.
Side B’s opener, a cover of the Buck Owens hit Act Naturally, is of course strong and peppy. The song is fun, entertaining and musically sound. While Bradley’s production of this cover doesn’t set the world alight, there isn’t much that can go wrong when the songwriting is so good.
World of Forgotten People proves that Loretta Lynn’s own songwriting transcended what many might think her voice was. She could write music and lyrics which integrated completely into her genre. There is none of her sass or determination here, this song is about heartbreak, pure and simple, and it is very effective.
Color of the Blues follows this trend, delivered sensitively by Lynn.
A Hundred Proof Heartache, the third and final self-penned number on the album, follows the trend of World of Forgotten People. It is boldly arranged with tinkly, rolling piano backing, delivered by Lynn in her still sometimes girlish tone.
As we come to the end of the album, I Walked Away From the Wreck and Lonesome 7-7203 are both fairly standard heartache songs, treated with the same tried and tested formula as most of the album, in terms of production.
This album is varied and exploratory. Producer Owen Bradley was developing a sound for Lynn that would go on to be incredibly successful and recognisable. But here he is not over-indulging in the style of song that would become her most well known: the long-suffering but plucky wife talking about the issues that many women faced in their relationships.
It is easy to see why Loretta Lynn Sings was successful, peaking at number two in the country music album chart. It feels contemporary for 1963, standing shoulder to shoulder with any album from more established stars.
Bradley’s production here, while not breaking much–if any–new ground, is frankly faultless. Lynn’s voice is so strong that it can hold its own alongside the sometimes brash arrangement. It is clear that the sound they would go on to hone together to such great chart success and fan reception has a really strong beginning in this first album.