If I were a carpenter

Lifting words from Loretta Lynn’s Jack White-produced, Grammy-gilded 2004 album Van Lear Rose — on which she wrote every song — here’s a call-and-response of sorts, knitted together with Doc Watson’s Third Generation Blues. Watson recorded that 1999 album with his grandson, Richard, on guitar — and thus Van Lear Rose and Third Generation Blues might be considered companion records of sorts, inasmuch as they herald a confluence of the old, dear guard with the rising young bucks. (Okay, so comparing Jack White and Richard Watson is a stretch — but let’s pretend.)

On marriage

In a particularly moving version of the old Bobby Darin hit “If I Were a Carpenter,” Doc’s creek-over-boulders voice lends real weight to worn romantic lyrics:

“Save my love from loneliness
Save my love from sorrow
I’m giving you my only-ness
Give me your tomorrow.”

On the straightforward “Miss Being Mrs.,” Lynn laments the loss of “Doo,” her husband of 48 years:

“I lie here all alone
In my bed of memories
I’m dreamin’ of your sweet kiss
Oh, how you loved on me.
… How I loved them loving arms
That once held me so tight
… I miss being Mrs. tonight.”

On God

In an interestingly altered version of the well-known Nina Simone song “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” Doc sings:

“When my friends don’t understand
When they fail to lend a hand
When my load gets too heavy to bear …
Dear Lord, I can always find you there.”

Lynn, too, has no use for friends who don’t understand — especially the ones who don’t get God. Her trademark charisma, edged with spite, rides high on that theme. In “God Makes No Mistakes,” she complains:

” … I’ve heard people say
Why is this tree bent
Why, they don’t have God enough to know
That’s the way that it was meant.
… I’ve heard people say
Why is my child blind
Why is that ol’ drunk still livin’
When a daddy like mine is dyin’
Our blessed father who gives us life
Has the power to take it away
There’s no reason for what He does
God makes no mistakes.”

On freedom of choice

In “Train Whistle Blues,” his version of an old Jimmie Rodgers tune, Doc guesses, like Jimmie did, that when “a woman gets the blues, she hangs her little head and cries.”

But in her song “Mrs. Leroy Brown,” the coal-miner’s daughter opts for action. Reporting on-site from “every honky-tonk in town,” Lynn’s title character is swimming in those aforementioned blues, so far gone she’s “almost drunk from the drinks that I turned down.”

Instead of crying, however, she decides this time to

“Call myself a long pink limousine
Yeah … the prettiest thing I think I’ve ever seen.
There’s a big bar in the corner and a TV on the side.
This baby’s 60 feet long and 40 feet wide.”

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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