Country music lost one of its greatest songwriters, singers, and performers of all time when Loretta Lynn passed away on Tuesday, October 4th. Lynn leaves behind a massive catalog of hit singles and stellar albums that will be forever ensconced in the country music canon, and be enjoyed by generations of country music fans to come. But we may not be done hearing from Loretta Lynn just yet, including new original songs.
In 2014, Loretta Lynn signed a five album record deal with Sony Records imprint Legacy Recordings. This is the same imprint that has been releasing all of Willie Nelson’s most recent albums to great success, helping to elongate his career. As part of that Sony announcement, it was revealed that between 2007 and 2014, Loretta Lynn had been making regular visits to the Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, TN originally built by Johnny Cash, and recording tracks with her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash acting as producers.
These sessions were said to net over 90 new song recordings. Some of the material was re-recordings of her old hits, some of it was older traditional material she wanted to sing in intimate performances like they might have sounded if they were recorded in the 30s and 40s, and some of it was new original songs.
“Me and Shawn Camp have been writing some songs together,” Lynn said in 2014. “He’s a good little writer, and I’ve been busy recording. I cut 90-some songs. I did all my biggest ones over again, and I cut some old-timey story songs like Mommy taught me when I was in Kentucky.”
Out of those 90+ songs and five Legacy Recordings albums, we’ve only heard 52 of them over four releases. Loretta Lynn released the 14-song album Full Circle in 2016, the 12-song Holiday album White Christmas Blue later that year, the 13-song Wouldn’t It Be Great in 2018, and the 13-song Still Woman Enough in 2021. That comes to a grand total of 52 songs released on Legacy Recordings, meaning there are likely at least another 38 songs swirling out there just from those original Cash Cabin sessions.
Loretta Lynn suffered a stroke on May 5th, 2017, which mostly ceased her ability to tour, though she continued to make appearances upon occasion, including helping to induct Alan Jackson into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October of 2017. Then on January 8th, 2018, Loretta suffered another health setback after falling and fracturing her hip. All of this delayed the release of Wouldn’t It Be Great for an extended period, and may have affected her ability to record new material.
But Loretta Lynn continued to write new songs, saying in a press conference in early 2019, “I’ve done quite a bit [of writing]. I want to get back into it real good though, like I used to write. I used to write all the time. Now, I’m just writing when I want to, which is not good. ‘Cause I don’t want to (laughing).”
We don’t know exactly how much unreleased Loretta Lynn material is swirling out there, but we do know there must be some. It’s very likely there is enough material for Loretta to fulfill her five album contract with Sony, if not more, especially if she participated in subsequent studio sessions after 2014.
Meanwhile, many people went to remember Loretta Lynn upon her passing by trying to play her 2004 comeback record produced by Jack White, Van Lear Rose. But they were sorely disappointed to find that the title has been removed via all streaming and download services, and is currently out-of-stock in vinyl. CDs are also selling at a premium, likely because they are final printings of remaindered stock.
As Saving Country Music reported in March of 2021, the title had been removed due to undisclosed reasons. Originally released on Interscope Records, which is a division of the Universal Music Group, Van Lear Rose went on to be nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning two of them for Best Country Album, and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Portland, Oregon” with Jack White. Loretta Lynn was 72-years-old at the time, working with the 28-year-old Jack White.
Saving Country Music has once again made efforts to determine why Van Lear Rose is not available, but no explanation has been given. Often in these instances, the unavailability of music is due to a publishing dispute, and parties could be legally barred from speaking on the matter. Hopefully Loretta’s passing can stimulate the respective parties to resolve the issue, and allow the title to be heard by long time Loretta fans and future ones.
It’s also not uncommon for other unreleased recordings to be unearthed after an artist passes that have been accumulated from throughout their career. So even though Loretta Lynn is gone, it’s very unlikely we’ve heard the last from the Coal Miner’s Daughter.
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The Grand Ole Opry will be paying tribute to long time Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn all week. It started with Kentucky native Carly Pearce playing her Loretta Lynn tribute song “Dear Miss Loretta” on the Grand Ole Opry Tuesday night (10-4).