The late seventies was a transition time in Dolly Parton’s career. She had distanced herself from Porter Wagoner and this 1976 album ‘All I Can Do’ is the last album he was involved in, co-producing with Dolly. Following quickly on from the disappointing ‘Dolly’ album, All I Can Do is both a return to the classic country which made her name and a subtle continuation of her evolution towards the mainstream. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – All I Can Do”
Dolly’s second solo release of 1975 was an album made up entirely of self-penned love songs. Porter Wagoner had long been working as an uncredited producer on Dolly’s solo albums but this was the first one which boldly declared itself ‘produced and arranged by Porter Wagoner’. The album was given the original title of simply ‘Dolly’ but it has since become more commonly known with the added subtitle of ‘The Seeker – We Used To’, to differentiate it from other self-titled collections of hits. The subtitle refers to the two singles from the album, the most successful of which was The Seeker, which charted at number two and ended her run of four consecutive number one singles. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Dolly: The Seeker – We Used To”
The new Netflix movie ‘Dumplin’ begins with the heroine Willowdean Dickson in her car, singing along to Dolly Parton’s debut single ‘Dumb Blonde’, a song about subverting the expectations of those who judge you unfairly on appearances. The film, based on Julie Murphy’s wonderful novel, concerns a plus size teen who decides to enter a beauty contest as a protest and finds out she really is pageant material after all. Continue reading “Album Review: Dolly Parton – Dumplin’ (Original Soundtrack)”
In 1975 Dolly Parton found herself at the high point of her country music career, being in the middle of a run of four number one singles and finally winning the CMA for Female Artist of the Year. Her first album of that year was the controversial classic ‘The Bargain Store’, one of the strongest collections of songs Dolly was to release in this impressively productive period. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: ‘The Bargain Store’ – Album Review”
Love is like a Butterfly is one of the sweetest songs Dolly Parton ever recorded and was the title track to her second solo album of 1974, the follow up to Jolene. With its fluttering piano, Butterfly may not be a traditional country song but it celebrates love and nature in a simple way that fits with Dolly’s musical vision. It was her third number one in a row and became her signature song at the time, eventually chosen the theme tune to her first TV solo show in 1976. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Love is Like A Butterfly”
After writing my recent post about Dolly Parton’s 1974 album Jolene, I thought I would delve a little deeper into the title song and contemplate its influence on country music and beyond. Of course this song has generated endless cover versions from artists as wide ranging as The White Stripes, Reba McEntire, Strawberry Switchblade and Olivia Newton John but what I’m interested in is how Jolene has inspired the songwriting of others.
Jolene connected with listeners because it was a nakedly vulnerable song, full of fear, desperation, panic and even paranoia. Partly what makes this song memorable is the simplicity of that repeated use of Jolene, sung over thirty times and the ominous beat underneath. But it is the characters that Dolly created who really make this song so iconic. We sympathise with the narrator because everyone has doubted themselves or felt that stab of jealousy when your beloved notices another. And the title character is so vividly drawn, with her ‘flaming locks of auburn hair…ivory skin and eyes of emerald green’ that you can’t help wanting to know more about Jolene’s story.
Here is a brief list of songs, some which are written in direct response to Jolene, others which just echo this modern classic but all of which owe a debt to Dolly. Continue reading “Under Her Influence: Songs Inspired by Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’”
From the ominous opening beat of Jolene, it’s immediately clear that this song is unlike anything else Dolly Parton had ever recorded in her career. Sonically the groove is dark and menacing, with the repeated ‘Jolene’ sounding more and more desperate as the song goes on. The simplicity of the structure adds to appeal of the song – three chords and the truth is no cliche when it is done this well. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: Jolene”
On her 1973 album Bubbling Over we find Dolly changing direction again, moving away from the deeply personal, autobiographical songs of My Tennessee Mountain Home. This lighter album feels like another step towards finding the sound that would eventually help her make the breakthrough beyond the country charts. The cover image is memorably kitsch with Dolly’s grinning face emerging from a fountain, taken by Les Leverett near the Country Music Hall of Fame. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Bubbling Over”
Early in her career Dolly Parton used her childhood growing up in the mountains as inspiration for songs that dealt honestly with the hardships and struggle faced by poverty stricken families, most famously her song Coat of Many Colors cut to the heart of her sometimes brutal experiences. Dolly also used dark humour to expose the realities of where she came from on songs like ‘In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad), concluding that nothing could convince her to ‘go back and live through it again’.
And yet on her 1973 album ‘My Tennessee Mountain Home’ that is exactly what she did. A concept album about her upbringing, with every song written solely by Dolly for the first time, you might expect another harsh slice of reality bites. Instead her glasses are rose-drenched to the point where you barely recognise the place she sang about previously. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – My Tennessee Mountain Home”