Legendary Loretta Lynn takes SXSW on a jukebox joyride

She’s still a honky tonk girl, that Loretta Lynn. And as she is the most awarded woman in country music, 60 years in the game comes with some freedom. That applies to your tongue as well as your setlist.

Loretta Lynn performs at the BBC Music showcase at Stubb's during South by Southwest March 17. (Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Loretta Lynn performs at the BBC Music showcase at Stubb’s during South by Southwest March 17. (Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“Well, whatever you wanna hear, holler it out. If I don’t know it, you can come up here and sing it yourself,” Lynn said Thursday night at Stubb’s during a SXSW showcase presented by BBC. Indeed, midway through the set, Lynn had sat on a suitcase, and as she took a sip of water and looked around, a guy yelled “Fist City!” into the low murmur.

“Fist City?” Lynn asked. “OK.” And the band played. It was that easy.

Literally dazzling in a dress so ruby red that it looked like she peeled it off of a witch’s feet, Lynn held court with her band behind her (including son Ernie) and a lifetime’s worth of fans in front of her.

That voice, just as pretty and wry as it sounds in everyone’s heads, reminded Stubb’s that “You’re Lookin’ at Country” and that no one was woman enough to take her man. And to see Lynn shake her head in regret about the pictures, records and class ring she possesses in “She’s Got You” was watching a record glimmer to life.

But everyone knows Loretta Lynn can sing till the cows come home. Let’s talk about what a hoot she is.

She celebrated the success of new album “Full Circle” overseas and thanked the BBC. But she didn’t let the network off that easy. Normally, she said, she’s given free reign over a stage in Texas. Not so at this SXSW showcase.

“Loretta, get it on here and get it off. They’re mean to me here,” she winked.

The gem of the night (aside from the singer and her gown) was spitfire from a lady who knows what she wants. After a suggestion she sing something from the new LP, Lynn said she wanted to sing “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven,” but the band started playing a different song. So Lynn, she just sat there rolled her eyes for a couple bars. The band didn’t hear a word she said. They caught on eventually, and the crowd roared.

“You better listen to me, or y’all gonna be playing for someone else next week,” she deadpanned.

Time ran out, and Lynn checked her wristwatch to see it was time to get it off. Not before “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” of course.

The time was too short, but SXSW got what it came for. As Lynn said, “You’ve never seen me come to Texas and not act up.”

Loretta Lynn performs at Stubb's during a South by Southwest showcase presented by BBC on Thursday, March 17, 2016. (Eric Webb/American-Statesman)
Loretta Lynn performs at Stubb’s during a South by Southwest showcase presented by BBC on Thursday, March 17, 2016. (Eric Webb/American-Statesman)

Author: Eric Webb

Eric Webb is a web producer for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360. He blogs about Austin culture, pop culture and anything that lives on the Internet.

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