Dolly Parton’s Discography: Little Sparrow (2001)

On Dolly’s album ‘Eagle When She Flies the sparrow of the title song was broken, small, defeated in comparison with the soaring majesty of the bird of prey. Here on her second full length bluegrass album Little Sparrow, the title track takes that idea further with the sparrow as a symbol of femininity, fragility, which men ‘crush’.

The sorrow never ends,’ Dolly sings with an understanding of the tragedy of a woman’s life. Musically this melody was adapted from an old folk song. Her voice is quietly hushed, the music a haunting tale of heartbreak. She has a confidence in her vision on these albums and with the help of the excellent band she realises it with stunning authenticity and immediacy.

The photos for this album were shot by Jim Harrington who recalls that Dolly wanted a ‘grittier…back-to-her-roots’ aesthetic. He shot the pictures in a cabin outside of Nashville, creating an eerie out of time kind of atmosphere. Dolly leans on the ‘blue’ of the genre here, singing a darker, more reflective take on the genre. In fact Dolly called the album ‘blue mountain music’. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: Little Sparrow (2001)”

Album Review: Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed

In her recent New York Times interview Kacey Musgraves joked that she ‘wasn’t going to be a real country artist without at least one divorce under my belt’. That’s the kind of self deprecating, knowing humour which she sprinkled through her first three albums, culminating in her triumphant success at the Grammys in 2019.

Golden Hour was strikingly original, hugely influential and every single song on that album could have been a radio hit. The fact the Grammys understood its power more than country radio tells you why she had to leave that genre behind. Mainstream country is a lost cause, more so now than ever – it’s become such a difficult place for most progressive female artists I’m just glad that some of them get out of there alive. Take country with you but dear god don’t look back.

star-crossed works best when listened to as a whole and indeed as a sequel – a splintering to what came before. Despite the light modern production this album strangely feels less commercial, with fewer big hooks and melodies. After the Golden Hour faded Kacey sounds like she got high and disappeared into the clouds. Blur the pain away. Continue reading “Album Review: Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed”

Album Review: Charlie Marie – Ramble On

On Charlie Marie’s 2019 EP she sang about how ‘everywhere’s got a countryside’, channeling Patsy Cline and gathering some well deserved online buzz. Due to the pandemic it has taken a couple of years for her to release this debut album but it is more than worth the wait. Ramble On is a welcome journey through the classic country sound with lots of witty wordplay. Continue reading “Album Review: Charlie Marie – Ramble On”

Album Review: Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall – The Marfa Tapes

Out here you’ve got nothing else to lean on…you’ve got sky, desert, emotion.’ The here is Marfa, Texas. Last year Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall and Jack Ingram escaped to their hideaway searching for solace, sunsets and songs. The results are The Marfa Tapes, a bare bones collection which beautifully evokes a place out of time. Continue reading “Album Review: Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall – The Marfa Tapes”

Dolly Parton’s Discography: Hungry Again (1998)

In his recent book about David Hockney, critic Martin Gayford described the artist as someone who ‘keeps doing the same thing, continually fired by the urge to do it differently and better…he is teaching us a lesson not only in how to see, but how to live.’ Dolly Parton has lived her life in the exact same way. Great art is found in the consistent creativity of hard work.

On first listen Hungry Again might sound like a retread of some of Dolly’s earlier ideas but connecting to her past is part of what has made her an icon. As she writes ‘Sometimes to know just how far you’ve traveled, you’ve got to go back to where you began’. The songs were written over a three month period spent between her lake house and childhood home, resulting in Dolly’s first album of entirely solo penned material in decades. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: Hungry Again (1998)”

Album Review: Miko Marks & The Resurrectors – Our Country

After moving to Nashville in the early 2000s, Miko Marks found breaking into country music an impossible struggle. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone she explained, ‘I was young and I was bright-eyed and I was thinking ‘You have this skill set, there’s no way you can’t make it in this town.’ Her naive optimism would soon be crushed by the reality of an industry, and an audience, unwilling or unable to go beyond their own narrow idea of what a country singer could be.

After moving back to the west coast Miko kept performing but only recently returned to recording, inspired by recent efforts to change the conversation in the industry. Interesting, but not surprising, then that she has chosen to go beyond the genre with the scope of this great new album Our Country. Continue reading “Album Review: Miko Marks & The Resurrectors – Our Country”

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – Still Woman Enough

In the video for her new version of Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn swings on a porch seat, speaking the words to her most famous song with a blissful contentment that comes from a life well lived. Compared to other country legends at similar points in their career (see the existential crisis of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’) Loretta appears serene.

That old cabin in Butcher Hollow she speaks of is from another century, another world long gone. Now she is a queen on a throne, almost ready to pass her title to those successors in waiting but not quite done ruling her kingdom just yet. Her crown rests lightly on the arm, the glitz of her ballgown and jewellery as dazzling as her defiant stare. The signature guitar at her side, Loretta looks ‘Still Woman Enough’ to reign supreme. Continue reading “Album Review: Loretta Lynn – Still Woman Enough”

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