LORETTA LYNN STAYING BUSY THESE DAYS

By CHRIS WELCH
Times Entertainment Writer

The voice on the other end of the phone line was warm, kind — even motherly.

“Are you busy?” she asked.

The legendary Queen of Country Music — Loretta Lynn — asking if her interviewer was busy?

It made more sense to ask Lynn that.

“Oh yeah, hon, I’m staying busy,” the country star said as she called to talk about her show here Friday night at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall.

“I’ve been recording all day. I’m working on a gospel album, Christmas album and a greatest hits album.”

Hey Loretta, you ever going to slow down?

“Slow down? What’s that?” Lynn said, laughing. “I’ve got more energy today than I did when I was 16.”

Yep, the wonderful lady we all know as the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is still going strong after singing, performing and entertaining fans and audiences for more than 40 years. She’s achieved true American-icon status by sharing the saga of her rough road from poverty in the hills of Kentucky to wealth and superstardom in Nashville.

In 1973, she appeared on the cover of Newsweek; in ’76 her autobiography became a New York Times best seller; in ’80 the book was made into a hit film starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. She’s made 70 albums and produced 52 Top 10 hits and 27 No. 1s, including “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Fist City,” “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man).”

Songs from the heart

Most country singers would be settling into the twilight of their careers after they hit the big 7-0, and indeed, health reasons and the death of her husband, Oliver “Mooney” Lynn, in 1998 caused her to slow some in the ’90s.

But two years ago, Lynn made a comeback when she won a Grammy for Country Album of the Year for “Van Lear Rose” and for the song “Portland Oregon,” a vocal duet with Jack White, the album’s producer and the frontman for the alternative rock band The White Stripes.

Jack White and Loretta Lynn? Sounds like an odd couple. Well, not to Lynn.

“He sat and watched my movie in a theater, one show after another,” Lynn said. “He apparently didn’t get sick of watching the doggone movie, and he told himself, when he got older, he was going to produce that lady.

“We worked in Manhattan together and I said, ‘I’ve got to get ready to record an album.’ And he said, ‘Can I produce you?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’ ”

So had Lynn even heard of White, The White Stripes and their hits “Seven Nation Army” or “The Hardest Button to Button”?

“Nope, I had never heard of him,” Lynn said in her typical honest manner. “We did a show together and he’s a great kid. I love Jack.”

When she was younger, Lynn drew upon her own experiences as a harried young wife and mother — starting at the age of 16, she had four kids in a row – and upon her homespun sense of humor. But at the same time, she issued warnings to philandering hubbies and females everywhere — she wasn’t to be messed with. She also confronted many of the major social issues of her time, including birth control in “The Pill” and the human costs of the Vietnam War in “Dear Uncle Sam.”

“I think people know I live all my songs,” Lynn said. “I write them, but they know why I’m writing them.”

Now, her kids are all grown, and Lynn says she enjoys writing and singing more than ever. Slow down? Are you kidding?

“I’m going to perform for as long as I want to,” Lynn said. “I still enjoy singing, and people are living these songs, so I’d be silly not to go out and sing for them.”