Loretta Lynn is not touring to support a new album. The legendary country singer's tour is not sponsored by Xbox 360, and she is not hitting the road to coincide with a maniacal media blitz.
Lynn is touring because "it's better than sitting on the couch and watching TV."
The point of Lynn's current tour, bringing her to the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday?
"I'll sing whatever anybody wants to hear," she said recently via telephone. "They'll holler out whatever they wanna hear, and I'll do my best to sing them. I don't like to have a show already made up."
It makes sense that Lynn is so casual and down-home with her shows. She's always considered herself a simple woman born in Butcher Hollow, Ky., in 1935 — and more famously, a coal miner's daughter. Over her 47-year recording career, Lynn has gifted popular music with some of the most memorable songs in the recorded medium's history.
While most of her hits are decades old, her most recent CD — 2004's "Van Lear Rose," cut with producer Jack White of the White Stripes, Dead Weather and Raconteurs — was a smashing critical success that also won Lynn a couple of Grammy Awards. The record's single, "Portland, Oregon," is one of the greatest country songs of the decade, a rocked-out love story that feeds off Lynn and White's back-and-forth.
Lynn speaks of White as if he's one her children, doting and admiring.
"Jack White did that album, and I love Jack White," she said. "We need to get together to do another album. He's a little bit different. It was the most country record I ever did. I don't know how we came up with it, I have no idea, but I found out that he had watched the movie ("Coal Miner's Daughter") over and over since the time he was 9.
"We don't get to see each other anymore. He's in Nashville, and I live 100 miles from Nashville. He goes overseas and to Europe a lot. I want him to come to the Grand Ole Opry and do 'Portland, Oregon' with me. On tour we sing it every night, and I have one of the group help me sing it — my son, usually. But I'd love to sing that song with Jack, and I'd love to cut another record with him."
Lynn talks with the excitement and amazement of a child, although her many stories are a clear tip to her 74 years of life.
"I feel great — better than I did at 30, 'cause back then I had so many kids, and I was trying to work and take care of the house and get on the road," she said. "I'd come in off the road and start cleaning house, and when I was done cleaning, I'd be back on the road. It was hard for me.
"I had a lady that watched the kids, but nobody's gonna take care of the home like you want it taken care of, I don't care who you are. She made sure they ate, and that was it. She's still with me today. She's been with me since I was 28, and now she runs the museum."
A conversation with Lynn is a sprawling affair. Talking about her 30s leads to a conversation about her children, including her twin girls Peggy and Patsy, named after her mom and her old friend Patsy Cline. And that gets her reminiscing about the days she would run around with Cline, talking about music and men.
"It was sad when we lost Patsy," Lynn said. "She was my only girlfriend at the time. She took me under her wing, and when I lost her, it was something else. I still miss her to this day. I wrote 'You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man,' and she said, 'Loretta, that's a damn hit.' It shocked me, because you don't expect somebody like Patsy Cline to tell you that you have a hit. Right after she passed, I put the record out, and it was a hit."
Lynn, with her coiffed hair and princess dresses, is definitely a throwback to old Nashville. She thinks Music City has changed for the better and the worse, but she believes that country music is in danger of losing its personality, its uniqueness, because of the proliferation of pop-crossover radio hits.
"I think they oughtta keep it country or pop," she said. "There should be a line between them, and anymore you can't tell. They put a record out, and it goes both ways, and where does that leave 'em? It's not really what I would want. They lose themselves, and they get lost in the shuffle, because they end up not being either one."