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So goes Cash, so goes Lynn

Country Standard Time Editorial, May 2004

Johnny Cash was a great musical icon, not just a country music legend. But his later career was not going so well until rap/metal producer Rick Rubin took over the production chores about 10 years ago. The result was a series of superb albums culminating in last fall's five-CD boxed set of even more outstanding works from the Man in Black only a few months after his death.

Despite the acclaim, great album reviews and awards received by Cash, that did not translate into airplay on country radio stations.

Loretta Lynn released probably her finest album in many a moon, "Van Lear Rose" in late April on Interscope. That's the home of Limp Bizkit and 50 Cent, not exactly a haven for country singers.

Jack White of rock duo the White Stripes produced,and pretty much lets Lynn's voice - still sounding great as she nears 70 - do the talking.

The similarities between Cash and Lynn are apparent. Just as Cash came back, Lynn's effort could prove to be a big shot in the arm for her career in her sixth decade as a singer.

But what may be as disheartening as it was for Cash's music is that it seems unlikely country radio will play Lynn's album. In LA, an alternative rock station is playing the disc. Ditto for Boston. They are not alone.

What's the problem for country radio? Lack of success on the singles charts. If Lynn had a hit there, then country radio would play it since country stations are very much driven by what's happening on the charts.

And with no top 20 hit since 1985, chances are that's not going to happen in 2004 either.

To our ears, it seems a real shame that stations are so overwhelmed by the concept of commercial success at the expense of high quality music that Lynn is unlikely to be played. What's the problem in turning on listeners to something a little bit different than the usual songs being played (not that Lynn's album strays very far from her country roots, though there are a few rock atmospherics at times)

For Loretta Lynn, she will have to just live with the consequences of making a great album just as Cash did. In other words, maybe good record sales and a heck of a lot of respect and admiration from the music public, but not much help from country radio.