Every Dolly Parton Solo Album Ranked!

Listening to every Dolly solo album in order was a mammoth task and one which offers me some insight into the quality of her work over the last few decades.

Ranking albums is a fun task for music nerds like myself, and I began by splitting the albums into four categories: excellent, good, average, terrible. After that I went back to read my reviews (linked below) and listened again to determine which order I think best reflects the quality of Dolly’s work and my own personal favourites.

I chose the number one album because I think it best encapsulates everything Dolly has to offer: country, pop, bluegrass, classic songwriting, and above all else personality.

I have excluded soundtrack albums, her Christmas albums, the Dollywood only album and her children’s album, making a total of 44 albums to rank.

Read on and let me know your favourite Dolly album in the comments!

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Dolly’s Discography – Pure & Simple (2016)

‘Pure & Simple’ is an album dedicated to Dolly’s mysterious husband Carl Dean, a man who has kept himself out of the spotlight for her entire career. The songs Dolly has written about him in the past include ‘Jolene’ and ‘Just Because I’m A Woman’, neither of which paint him in an entirely flattering light. To do an album of love songs in the year they renewed their vows is a tribute to the longevity of their marriage, while also offering Dolly something different in terms of theme at this point in her career.

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Dolly Parton’s Discography: Blue Smoke (2014)

A couple of years back I made a running playlist of Dolly Parton songs, my favourite of which is the title track from this album ‘Blue Smoke’. My running route included quite a large hill and so this song would usually come on just at the point I was ‘climbin’ up the mountain’ and I found it always gave me the motivation I needed to keep going. The tune is one of Dolly’s most underrated songs, about leaving behind your old life and never looking back. A simple bluegrass arrangement that suits Dolly so well and one of her catchiest melodies – so catchy that the Glastonbury crowd picked it up almost instantly despite it being unfamiliar to most of them when she played it there.

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Dolly Parton’s Discography – Better Day (2011)

‘Better Day’ was Dolly’s 43rd solo album and came three years after the fantastic return to form that was ‘Backwoods Barbie’. Some of the songs on ‘Better Day’ were written for the musical version of ‘9 to 5’ which Dolly had been working on around this time. The intention of the album was to be an uplifting collection of songs, all written by Dolly, that would help people escape from their troubles.

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Dolly Parton’s Discography – Those Were the Days (2005)

Released a couple of years after the abomination that is ‘For God and Country’ this was Dolly back on safer territory, with a cover album of country and pop songs from the 60s and 70s. The musical style was back to the bluegrass sound which had been so successful and features many guest artists including Norah Jones, Lee Ann Womack, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, and even the return of her old friend Mr Porter Wagoner.

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Under Her Influence – Songs Inspired by Loretta Lynn

Country music legend Loretta Lynn has today died peacefully in her sleep, aged 90. Some of the many artists paying tribute to Loretta online included Dolly Parton, Carole King, Wynnona Judd, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Drive By Truckers, Waxahatchee and Valerie June. Her influence runs deeper than the well in Butcher Hollow from where she once drew water.

Loretta’s straight-talking spirit, absolute authenticity and often confrontational style has few parallels in country music, or any genre. She was an icon of individuality, and an irreplaceable loss.

Read on to find some of the best examples of songs which pay tribute to Loretta or which echo her work. Feel free to add any further suggestions to the comments or on social media and I will add them to a playlist.

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Dolly Parton’s Discography – For God and Country

In an interview around the time of this album Dolly stated, ‘I’m not a bit political, but I’m extremely patriotic’. This is somewhat contradictory statement on its own terms and after listening to For God and Country it appears to be a flat out deception on Dolly’s part. This album is the most overtly political statement of Dolly’s career.

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Dolly Parton’s Discography: Run Rose Run (2022)

Run Rose Run is a unique album in Dolly’s discography, being released simultaneously with a novel tie in of the same name, co-written with James Patterson. Essentially this is a novel (and soon to be a movie) soundtrack. Dolly has been working hard expanding the Dollyverse and promoting these two projects with multiple events online and even in person at South by Southwest.

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