Song 355: Loretta Lynn, “Portland, Oregon” (2004)

loretta lynn frnt

I’m not proud to admit that I don’t know much about Loretta Lynn. But I know that I love Van Lear Rose, the incredible record that Lynn made with Jack White. The combination of Lynn’s country songs and White’s garage-rock make for an adventurous and unique album, one that seamlessly marries the two styles to create something new.

What, exactly, is that something? You could argue that despite the differences between the two sounds, Van Lear Rose simply sounds like American music. You can hear many bands and singers in “Portland, Oregon,” which sounds like the Allman Brothers Band playing at the Grand Ole Opry. And Lynn, of course, sounds fantastic, as if she’s been liberated by the crack band behind her.

And speaking of that crack band, how great do they sound? The overall feel of “Portland, Oregon” is that of tightly wound freedom. The song sounds like it would fly away at a moment’s notice if not for those massive chords that White pounds out. Those chords—fat, loud, and substantial—provide ballast as the song sways in the wind. Lynn’s beautiful, featherweight voice gives “Portland” its high end, propelling it higher and higher like helium.


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