the more things change

Life, man. It's all uncertain and stuff. But one thing I know for sure: there's always Dolly Parton.

I humbly submit that in this age of Ashlee and Olestra Dolly is one of the most genuine things going. She may wear extravagant wigs (Interviewer: How long does it take to do your hair? Dolly: How the hell should I know? I'm not around when it happens). She may have gone under the knife a few times (Dolly: If I see something sagging, bagging, or dragging, I get it sucked, tucked, or plucked). Dolly looks like a joke, but she's in on the joke, she made the joke, and she knows perfectly well it's all secondary.

A lot of people started re-listening to Dolly a few years ago when the White Stripes covered "Jolene"; if you've never heard the original, you must check it out. Most sane people gnash their teeth in desperation when Whitney starts howling that she will aaaaalllllwwwwaaaayyyyys looooooOOOOHHHHHve yooooOOOOHHHOOOOUUUUHHHH, but if you go back and hear the way Dolly did it first, you'll see that underneath it all, it's a damn fine song.

Dolly makes a great candidate for covering - after all, the woman has recorded over seventy albums. If you're looking for an introduction to Dolly (the music, not the punch line), a great place to start is The Ultimate Dolly Parton, a greatest-hits collection put out by RCA in 2003. Dolly picked the songs herself; you may have heard them before when the radio scanned past the country channel ("Islands in the Stream," her duet with Kenny Rogers, busted country chart records for months). My favorites are the aforementioned "Jolene"; "Please Don't Stop Loving Me", a duet with her longtime musical partner Porter Wagoner; the classic "9 to 5" from the hilarious movie of the same name; and "Tennessee Homesick Blues" ("New York City ain't no kind of place / for a country girl with a friendly face").

Apropos of that last song, when Dolly moved to Los Angeles as a young star, the people back home accused her of abandoning Tennessee. Her response? "I'm not leaving the country. I'm taking the country with me." You can hear this for yourself in some of her recent records, especially 2001's Little Sparrow, which is pure, honest folk music (in the best sense of the word), straight from the mountains. My favorite songs on that album are the title track, "My Blue Tears", and a beautiful version of "I Get a Kick Out of You". There's absolutely zero artifice.



Anonymous mike said...

Dolly Parton's recent records are among the best stuff she's ever done. She even makes Collective Soul's "Shine" sound like a classic mountain hymn. Question: Why has Dolly so effortlessly returned to her roots, while wheezebags like Rod Stewart come across like washed-up senior citizens?

9:08 AM, May 17, 2005  
Blogger d said...

'cause behind all her wigs, boobage & cherry red open toe shoes, dolly is real-er than real. & having a gorgeous soprano don't hurt neither.

one of my aunts worked for miss parton & she's a lovely lady. all around class.

10:23 AM, May 17, 2005  

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