Loretta Lynn: White Christmas Blue

For her second release of 2016, Loretta Lynn presents a down-home country Christmas of the old fashioned variety.

Loretta Lynn

White Christmas Blue

Label: Legacy Recordings
US Release Date: 2016-10-07
UK Release Date: 2016-10-07

It’s been half a century since Loretta Lynn released her last Christmas album, 1966’s A Country Christmas. To say that much has changed in the time since would be an absurd, cruelly dismissive understatement. For starters, Lynn herself was only three years into her recording career, having released her debut LP, the inconspicuously titled Loretta Lynn Sings, in 1963. By the end of 1966, she would have a total of 10 LPs under her belt, well on her way to becoming the doyen of country music royalty she is today. Now, 12 years after her seemingly improbable resurrection at the hands of noted fan Jack White, Lynn has, with White Christmas Blue, released her second album of 2016.

Recorded during the same intimate sessions with John Carter Cash – himself the descendant of country royalty – that produced March’s Full Circle, White Christmas Blue carries with it every bit the same look, sound, and feel. Still, in impressively fine voice, Lynn knows she’s nothing left to prove and, because of this, relies on a perfectly workmanlike back-to-basics approach. Unfettered and unfussy, White Christmas Blue is every bit the Christmas album you would expect Loretta Lynn to record: an excellent mixture of cornpone country (“To Heck with Ole Santa Claus”), twangy sentimentality (her aching read of “Away in a Manger”) and straight-ahead “classic” country performed by an artist who knows no other kind (“White Christmas Blues,” “Country Christmas,” et. al.)

At its heart, White Christmas Blue offers a utilitarian view of a simpler time in both the sentiments behind each song and the manner in which they are performed. Indeed, the only thing separating these performances from those of A Country Christmas is a warmer production and a slightly more worn set of vocals from Lynn herself. Other than these contemporary identifiers, White Christmas Blue could have just as easily come out in 1966 or 1976 or, heck, even 1956. In other words, there’s nothing here that would date-stamp these recordings as being of the time in which they were laid to tape. And as with the best Christmas music, this complete detachment from time and space helps aid in its perennial relevancy and relatability.

By including a handful of re-recordings of songs that appeared on her first Christmas album, Lynn demonstrates the axiom of “the more things change, the more they stay the same", as her read of each remains largely stylistically true to the originals. This “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach suits her well as she provides here that which people know and love about her in the first place. There’s no sense going about any reinvention this far into her hall of fame career, and she’s keenly aware of this as she sticks to simple arrangements, straight-forward vocals and the laidback air of a bygone era.

This traditionalist approach is then the aural equivalent of a Norman Rockwell Christmas: it’s an idealized version of an earlier era built around kith and kin sat cozily around the fire while telling stories and singing songs of the season. There’s a warmth and intimacy to Lynn’s performances of these Christmas standards ranging from the secular (“Blue Christmas", “Frosty the Snowman", “White Christmas", et. al.) to the divine (“Oh, Come All Ye Faithful", “Silent Night", et. al.) that serves as a sort of grounding point for a time a year built on tradition and nostalgia. By elegantly tapping into each, Lynn, with White Christmas Blue provides fans with a collection that can be returned to time and again with the same heart-warming familiarity of faded photographs and video images of Christmases past. By closing the album with a spoken recitation of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas", Lynn plays the role of loving grandmother perfectly, making White Christmas Blue an ideal gift for fans of traditional country music and the holiday season in general, warming all but the coldest of hearts.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.