Dolly Parton’s Discography – Touch Your Woman

The cover of Dolly’s ninth album Touch Your Woman was markedly different from the childhood portrait of her previous release Coat of Many Colors. On this 1972 release she is pictured wearing a glamorous outfit, reclining amongst a lot of seductive throw pillows. Ok so this might have been pretty tame for the seventies but country music was still conservative so it was significant to have an album with such a suggestive title. In terms of content, the album continues to explore problematic relationships and the difficulties of marriage in a mature and refreshingly honest way. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Touch Your Woman”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – Coat Of Many Colors

With hindsight it feels incredible to think that Dolly Parton had to be convinced to record what would become one of her signature songs, ‘Coat of Many Colors’. The song was written on a tour bus in 1969, on the back of a dry cleaning receipt ironically for one of Porter’s Nudie suits (the receipt was eventually framed by Porter and can now be seen at Dollywood) but was not recorded until 1971 on this, her eighth album. Two years might not seem like a long time but Dolly had written and recorded many other songs in the interim. Porter himself actually recorded the first version, with Dolly on backing vocals, but he knew that there was only one singer who could do this song justice – the girl in the song. So why did Dolly hesitate to put this one on tape? To understand the answer we have to go back through the years, once again returning to her childhood in Tennessee. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Coat Of Many Colors”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – The Golden Streets of Glory

Dolly Parton’s mother always told her that if she hadn’t become a country singer she would have been a preacher, and if you’ve ever seen Dolly live you know that her concerts have the feel of mass evangelical rallies, such is the worship she generates from her audience. Dolly’s relationship with religion goes back to her upbringing and her family’s strong ties to the Pentecostal church. Her grandfather Jake was a preacher and many of her relatives followed in his footsteps. Dolly’s mother read the bible to her every night and this faith is woven into the textures of her songwriting. In 1971 Dolly released her sixth album and first gospel collection, The Golden Streets of Glory featuring a mix of standards, spirituals and songs written by herself and other family members. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – The Golden Streets of Glory”

Dolly’s Discography – The Fairest of Them All

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Well it can only be Dolly Parton, of course, even if this album cover has her wearing one of the most ridiculous outfits of her career. Despite the impression the garish cover gives this does not mean Dolly has embraced bubblegum pop or turned into a glitzy rhinestone cowgirl (those aspects of her career are yet to come). Instead this album, released in 1970, contains southern gothic short stories of traumatic and tragic lives, continuing the trend of her previous album My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy. Dolly writes all but one of these songs, and the album really benefits from being free of the cover versions and throwaway music row songs that weakened her earlier albums. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – The Fairest of Them All”

Dolly’s Discography – My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy

Picasso’s ‘Blue’ period was characterised by dark and somber paintings, expressing the emotional turmoil of the traumas of his youth. For a woman known to bring sunshine and rainbows it’s perhaps a surprise to find an album in Dolly Parton’s career which creates a similar morose tone, lyrically if not musically. There were no hits generated from My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy and the music confronts topics that she would shy away from as her career progressed: death, suicide, prostitution, pain, failure, anger, regret and suffering. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy”

Dolly’s Discography – In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)

When Dolly joined Porter’s popular television show there was an inevitable backlash from the audience, who were used to hearing their favourite Norma Jean and stubbornly resistant to change. In order to increase her public popularity Porter masterminded a campaign to flood the market with as much music by Dolly Parton as possible. He would make her a star, come what may.

In the years 1968 and 1969 Dolly released three solo albums and featured on three duet albums with Porter. Even for someone of Dolly’s prodigious songwriting talent that’s spreading yourself extremely thin. On these six albums there are 22 original songs written by Dolly, not counting her multiple co-writes, which suggests there’s at least one classic album lost among all the filler.

In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad) was the first of two solo albums released in 1969, reaching number 15 on the country charts. Since their duet albums were regularly hitting the top ten at this point, Dolly’s solo work appears to be struggling somewhat in comparison. While production is again credited to Bob Ferguson, Porter himself was in charge of the sound, much to the eventual frustration of Dolly herself. This album features a few gems but it is padded out by recordings of popular country hits, which makes it by far her weakest early collection. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”

Dolly’s Discography – Just Because I’m A Woman

Dolly’s career changed in 1967 when she got a phone call from Porter Wagoner. At first she thought he wanted to record one of her songs with his onscreen partner, Norma Jean, but little did Dolly know that she was actually being interviewed as a potential replacement for her. Soon Dolly was hired and began appearing on television performing to audiences of millions every week.

Starting on the show meant that Dolly left Monument Records and signed with Wagoner’s label RCA. Porter was central to Dolly’s move, as she explained:

“He made RCA a guarantee to get them to sign me. Porter told them he would pay them every cent they ever lost on me out of his own pocket. He never had to pay a dime.”

Porter’s belief in Dolly’s talent helped her career to flourish, although you could argue she was well on her way to success without him. Just Because I’m a Woman was released on May 4th 1968 and Bob Ferguson, RCA’s in-house man, is given the production credit, even though it was Porter himself who was in charge of the sound. The album contains songs which are populated by wronged women and suffering souls, yet somehow Dolly finds strength and even comedy in these dark moments. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – Just Because I’m A Woman”

Dolly’s Discography: Hello, I’m Dolly

One of my 2018 blog resolutions was to review an artist’s entire discography, inspired by the incredible blog The Diana Ross Project. I contemplated a few possible artists but in the end the chosen one could only be Dolly Parton. These posts will consist of track by track reviews of the solo albums in order of release.

In February 1967 Dolly Parton announced herself to the world with her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly. She was only 21 but had been singing since she was a child and trying to make a name for herself after moving to Nashville when she graduated high school. Initially her record label Monument hoped she could be a pop singer but her early singles failed to chart. She was paid $50 a week to write for the label and when songs she penned with her uncle Bill Owens became hits for other artists, Dolly was finally given a chance to record a country album. And boy, did she grab the opportunity with both hands, and she’s never let go since. Dolly wrote or co-wrote ten of the twelve songs, covering themes of sexism, adultery and heartbreak. This album generated her first hits and eventually brought her to the attention of Porter Wagoner. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography: Hello, I’m Dolly”

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