By Curtis Schieber – The Columbus Dispatch
Maybe it was her 76 years that prompted Loretta Lynn to choose to open her headlining show in the Ohio State Fair’s Celeste Center last night. Surely it was simple respect that inspired the Oak Ridge Boys, who shared the bill, to allow the country-music icon to make the call.
Although both have topped the country charts on and off for decades, Lynn defined the genre better by a country mile. Her You’re Lookin’ At Country, which she delivered feistily at the fair, is no idle boast.
Daughters Peggy and Patsy warmed up her backing band the Coalminers with capable but unremarkable contemporary country. Then Lynn took the stage.
Despite knee surgery in the spring, she stood for a few songs, including a swinging version of They Don’t Make ’Em Like My Daddy.
From her spectacular powder-blue, glitter-flecked dress to the deeply traditional values in her songs, and in a voice that blindly ignored her age, her set was a colorful snapshot of a proud but threatened culture. She kept it alive with grace and panache.
You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man, Blue Kentucky Girl, Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ and Your Squaw Is On The Warpath were classics of the genre, delivered with surprising sass as she sang from a chair. She scored with honky-tonk ballads, offering a deliciously regretfulShe’s Got You and a sweet duet with guitarist Bobby Vogel on After The Fire Is Gone.
Playing for more than an hour after Lynn’s set, the Oak Ridge Boys showed themselves to be one of the original non-country country-chart toppers with decades-old hits that often sounded more like oldies rock ’n’ roll, Jimmy Buffett novelty and the Doobie Brothers. Although their harmonies and backing band were consistently tight, they sounded most inspired when they returned to their gospel-quartet roots and when they dropped the pop-star shtick to sing the gospel-fueled country music that first made them distinctive.