Sunday, May 25, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: DOLLY PARTON - BLUE SMOKE
Parton returns to the bluegrass sound for this album, which she's been doing off-and-on since 1999's The Grass Is Blue. I'll take this over any of her more mainstream country/pop albums, and if you compare the styles, this is much closer to her best material, such as Coat Of Many Colors and Jolene. When she embraces country and roots, Parton reveals her greatest strengths, including her unique voice and actual authenticity.
But she can't help reveal her other side, even on a supposed bluegrass album. Her commercial hopes always come packaged with a corny aw-shucks persona, blatant attempts at cross-over hits and questionable musical choices. We get a mix of all that here, even though the larger theme is the bluegrass stuff. When she plays it straight, such as the new, self-written number If I Had Wings, it's sublime. Recalling old classic Wayfaring Stranger, it's one of the best songs she's ever written. But that's followed by Lover du Jour, just horrid and cheesy, with her tee-hee mangling of French phrases and Pepe le Pew humour. Her duet with Willie Nelson, From Here To The Moon And Back, is lovely, but the one with Kenny Rogers, You Can't Make Old Friends, is calculated. A bluegrass version of Dylan's Don't Think Twice, It's Alright is a good idea, but covering Bon Jovi's Lay Your Hands On Me as an overblown gospel number is sacrilege.
Parton seems torn between being an artist and a celebrity. She knows it was a combination of both that brought her to fame, and she just can't bring herself to abandon the act.