Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose

If Jack White’s appearance in the film Cold Mountain didn’t convincingly display his ancient soul, then this collaboration with one of the last true icons of country music surely does. White has never hidden his admiration of Lynn, but more credit must be given to her for taking a chance on this record, her first significant work since the death of her husband in 1996. Songwise, the album is basically a primer for anyone unfamiliar with Lynn’s past, and her writing is surprisingly sharp and hits home on first listen. There are the often-told tales of growing up as a coal miner’s daughter in the hills of Kentucky, but as might be expected, the best moments occur when Lynn shows the strength that made her a trailblazing feminist in her field. With its refrain, "Their daddy once was a good man/Until he ran into trash like you,” "Family Tree” is a modern-day update of her classic "other woman” hits, while "Women’s Prison” is a novel twist on murder ballads like "Long Black Veil.” However, the most touching song is undoubtedly "Miss Being Mrs.,” as honest a glimpse at widowhood as has ever been written. Musically, White strikes a careful balance between putting his trademark lo-fi stamp on the proceedings, while keeping the star of the show front and centre at all times. It’s actually refreshing to hear White playing with a full band and the subtleties he is able to conjure out of them, even though it’s a far cry from how Lynn has worked before. In fact, their lone duet on the album, "Portland Oregon,” sounds more like a White Stripes outtake, but elsewhere he is sympathetic to the material, as on the poignant vignette, "God Makes No Mistakes.” While Meg White probably doesn’t have to worry about dealing with a new love triangle just yet, Loretta Lynn is still clearly woman enough to steal her man. (Interscope)