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MUSIC REVIEW

Lynn has a country-song kind of day at Indian Ranch

Loretta Lynn had to overcome technical difficulties with the sound system at Indian Ranch. Loretta Lynn had to overcome technical difficulties with the sound system at Indian Ranch. (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / August 31, 2010

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WEBSTER — Loretta Lynn had just finished singing “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)’’ when the idea of a stiff drink suddenly sounded pretty good to her. She asked for some water but figured a little whiskey might be more appropriate.

“If I was a drinker, I’d be drinking right now,’’ the country legend said at her show at Indian Ranch Sunday afternoon, offering a funny but frank assessment of how she thought her performance had been going.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t Lynn’s finest hour on her 50th anniversary tour. You could point a finger in several directions, though Lynn mostly blamed the sound technician, shooting him stern glances as he tried in vain to tweak the mix to Lynn’s liking. She was justified in her frustration, though: She couldn’t hear most of the band in her monitors, and when she did, it was too loud. “When I sing off-tune, you’ll know why,’’ she said.

It was an unfortunate glitch in a performance that could have been great, especially after the heartfelt introduction by Peter Wolf, a lifelong fan of classic country. No matter how many times someone called out “I love you, Loretta’’ — to which she graciously returned the sentiment — the outpouring never seemed to put Lynn at ease, either.

If anything, she might have been too hard on herself. At a spry 76, Lynn was in particularly strong voice, but the technical difficulties drove her to distraction. Just when she hit her stride on “Table for Two,’’ she lost her place and decided it wasn’t worth finding her way back. The same thing happened during “One’s on the Way,’’ which was updated to include a line about Michelle Obama in the White House.

From “Fist City’’ to “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man),’’ the set list leaned heavily on the hits, with nothing from Lynn’s last album, 2004’s Grammy-winning “Van Lear Rose.’’ It’s not a surprise when that happens, but it’s still a shame considering how vivid her latest songs are.

Instead, Lynn surveyed a wide swath of her career, all the way from the first song she ever wrote (“I’m a Honky Tonk Girl’’), to a salute to her friend Patsy Cline (“She’s Got You’’), to Lynn’s softer side (“Love Is the Foundation’’). A bandmate assumed Conway Twitty’s role for a tender duet of “Lead Me On,’’ and the Indian Ranch was a comically fitting venue for “Your Squaw Is on the Warpath.’’

As much as they tried to accommodate Lynn, her bandmates occasionally lost her completely. At one point, she reckoned aloud that the band wasn’t in synch, which prompted a back-up singer to lob his own zinger right back at Lynn. He told her that they’d all be playing the Indian Ranch again in January — “because the promoter told me, ‘It’s gonna be a cold day when I bring that bunch back.’ ’’

It was a joke that almost didn’t come off as one, but Lynn was in a surly mood herself at times. When someone requested her signature song, Lynn dryly replied, “I don’t like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ ’’ — before later ending the show with it, as usual.

In the opening slot, Ayla Brown proclaimed her newfound allegiance to country music, with her parents — Senator Scott Brown and his wife, Gail Huff — beaming near the front of the stage. Brown debuted a clutch of slick songs that should feel right at home on contemporary country stations. But a pair of covers neatly outlined her broad new approach, from the twang of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy’’ to the good-time rock of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.’’

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

LORETTA LYNN

With Ayla Brown

At: Indian Ranch, Sunday