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.
Welcome to this new weekly feature where I recommend you three songs and discuss something loosely topical in the music industry. I will still be reviewing full length albums but I have been wanting a quicker way to highlight some songs and stories while also sharing my weekly playlist here on the blog.
So without further ado, here is what I’m currently listening to and thinking about!
Dolly’s final instalment of her bluegrass trilogy marked a shift to a lighter, more personal sound, a subtle move mirrored in the glamorous cover picture and the fact that the songs, bar two covers, were all original solo writes. Bluegrass goes pop, Dolly style. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – Halos & Horns (2002)”
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)”
In her memoir ‘Pilgrimage to Dollywood’ writer Helen Morales sums up the appeal of Dolly’s theme park concluding that it ‘has taken elements of America and distilled them into their essences: God, family, patriotic pride, country, nature, memory and optimism.’* Here we also find a perfect list to sum up the values of Dolly herself which have allowed her to maintain a strong core fan base in America’s rural and conservative heartlands despite her concurrent foray into glitz, glamour, Hollywood, pop music, cosmetic augmentation and progressive causes.
And so this album Precious Memories is one designed for her heartland base and in fact could only be purchased at Dollywood itself, with all proceeds going to the Dollywood foundation (it can be heard on YouTube for those who have not made the trek to Tennessee). Consisting of spirituals the album follows The Golden Streets of Glory as her second full gospel collection. Musically the production has a similar traditional tone to her bluegrass trilogy, which she would record immediately following this album. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: Precious Memories (1999)”
‘I had to get rich so I could sing like I was poor,’ Dolly famously joked about ‘The Grass is Blue’ released in 1999. While Dolly had the mountains in her veins and her voice from the start, there was always a sprinkling of razzle dazzle pop rhinestones on her country banjo. Traditional bluegrass may have influenced her songwriting but this would be her first full length embrace of the genre, earning a Grammy for ‘Best Bluegrass Album’. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – The Grass is Blue (1999)”
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)”
In 2018 I started my project to review all of Dolly Parton’s solo discography in order of release. Here is the master list of links to all the reviews I have completed so far. This list will be updated as and when I complete the reviews! Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Album Reviews List”
Why can’t we love one another? Why can’t we ride on the peace train?
Dolly Parton is often described as being an apolitical figure, one who refuses to speak out on controversial issues or align herself to a political party. However like many other cultural and spiritual icons before her, throughout her career Dolly has been a subtle but significant force for progressive change.
You could argue that it is exactly because Dolly has risen above the party political divide that she has been able to so successfully use her voice to support causes like literacy, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rural poverty and more recently healthcare and vaccine research.
Dolly’s message in her music and her life is one of peace and harmony, seen clearly on this diverse and inclusive 1996 covers album Treasures. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Treasures (1996)”