Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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LORETTA LYNN
The Definitive Collection
MCA Nashville

Country music's truest queen gets an imperfect collection

The shrewd minority who suspect 70-year-old Loretta Lynn's Jack White-produced 2004 comeback Van Lear Rose didn't do her justice are ill-served by her confusing catalogue. This 25-tracker is her most definitive CD so far, adding three stone classics, including "The Pill," to 2002's All Time Greatest Hits, but withholding three others, including the unreconstructed "Your Squaw Is on the Warpath." Although the 16-track 1991 Country Music Hall of Fame Series is more surefire, the extras here fill out the picture. Her voice too pert, spunky and honest for melodrama, Lynn is best playing her real-life role of long-suffering wife with druthers, with duet partner Conway Twitty occasionally broadening her romantic range. But beyond that, she's the most forthrightly downhome artist, male or female, ever to conquer Nashville.

Blender, Sept. 2005