I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed unusual musical collaborations, especially when such collaborations seem unlikely and, accordingly, convey an element of risk and adventure and are infused with a certain energy of edginess and abandon.
I mean, think of country legend Johnny Cash collaborating with rock and rap producer Rick Rubin to rework the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt”, or legendary pop/soul singer Dusty Springfield duetting with techno-pop duo The Pet Shop Boys. In both cases great songs resulted, with the artists involved pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones and producing some of the most compelling music of their careers. And it's because they collaborated with others - a collaborating that some may even had initially advised against.
Recently at Cheapo Discs in Uptown, Minneapolis, I bought a copy of Loretta Lynn’s 2004 award-winning album, Van Lear Rose - an album produced by rocker Jack White (of the band The White Stripes).
“To country and rock separatists,” notes one critic, “honky-tonker Loretta Lynn’s partnership with garage revivalist Jack White seemed like a freaky, fleeting alignment of planets from opposite ends of the solar system.”
Yet of such a seemingly unlikely collaboration, music critic Marc Greilsamer declares, “Yes, we all know the world is rapidly shrinking, but now we’ve seen everything. Most stunning of all – they nailed it.”
Notes Greilsamer: “White’s production – mostly stark and atmospheric – ranges from more-traditional country to straight-up White Stripes, with most tracks falling somewhere in between. White duets with Lynn on the rousing one-night-stand story “Portland, Oregon,” but he does not need to sing to leave his personal stamp. At 70, Lynn seems thoroughly engaged and delighted; at times she delivers some of the most emotionally potent singing of her career. A decade earlier, Johnny Cash turned to rock and rap producer Rick Rubin, and the move resuscitated Cash’s career. Now, Jack White has done the same for Loretta Lynn, another country legend whose music is simply too raw and honest for the contemporary country crowd. Van Lear Rose exceeds all expectations – a bold collaboration in which artists from two different musical universes forge a memorable work that neither could have created alone.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Luke Torn observes that, “The artistic gambles are part of the album’s charm, and Van Lear Rose’s looseness and off-the-cuff spontaneity, dismally lacking in today’s technology- and money-driven recording industry, make Loretta Lynn’s entirely unexpected comeback a rousing success.”
I couldn’t agree more. But don’t take my word for it, listen (and see) for yourself with the following video clip of the “killer” track, “Portland, Oregon” – courtesy of YouTube.com.
Recommended Off-site Link: Rolling Stone’s review of Van Lear Rose.
NEXT: Another unusual collaboration – Kate Bush and Larry Adler.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Rhythm Divine
All at Sea
The Beauty and Wisdom of Rosanne Cash
The Onward Call