Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Crossposted at HickoryWind.

Dolly Parton
Those Were The Days
Sugar Hill

Firstly, what on earth is Dolly wearing on the cover? Some kind of .... boho Pocahontas meets the chorus line in Fiddler on the Roof thing. Of course Dolly Parton Can Do Whatever She Likes and Still Be Glorious -- of course, goes without saying --but it's a little, um, busy don't you think?

Also, on first glance the song list pains me intensely with its tweeness. Those Were The Days? Gah. If I Were A Carpenter? Meh.

Imagine? Kill. Me. Now.

If it sounds like I'm ready to snark at Miss Dolly, I'm really not. In fact, I rather wish I was her. No jokes please, I'm talking about her amazing totally-on-her-own-terms life and career, rock hard determination and ambition, endless ability to laugh at herself, and the all-encompassing fabulousness she radiates from every plasticised inch. Oh yeah, and the voice. True, the perpetually startled look on her face these days suggests a nip and tuck too far, but then Dolly has always been equally at home with her Dollywood fakeness and her Pigeon Forge authenticity. We wouldn't have her any other way.

And I do really like the album. Those Were The Days brings together Dolly's two worlds, the kitsch and the tradition. It's surely not "Islands in the Stream", but it's not quite the harder-core bluegrass of her last couple of brilliant albums either. Oh the banjos, mandolins and harmonies are there, mixed right up front but punters put off by the murder ballads and mournful mountain tales will find this a more upbeat and accessible affair. With guests like Rhonda Vincent and Dan Tyminski though, its old timey cred is intact.

The stand out for mine is "Me and Bobby McGee" with Kris Kristofferson noodling away there in the background, a rather spare bluesy take augmented with wailing harmonica. Love that wailing harmonica. Even those who find alot of the other songs here a bit cheesy will surely have to dig this.

Except for the annoying massed chorus, I also unexpectedly enjoyed "Where Do The Children Play", with Yusuf Islam on guitar. And call me profane, but the idea of a noted religious ascetic picking with the Texas Whorehouse lady herself really appeals to me. In fact, all of the numbers are real toe-tappers and I strongly suspect slipping it on after a little red wine will become irresistable. The major exception is Imagine, but frankly no one can rescue that one.

Keith Urban is rather wet on "Twelfth of Never" but otherwise the guests come through. I think for years I've been getting Nickle Creek and Rascal Flatts mixed up, for which I now apologise to the former. They and Dolly manage an affecting "Blowin' In The Wind", although I can't help really, really, really wishing she'd picked a less completely obvious Dylan song.

There's a little weirdness on the title track, in that it features the Moscow Circus. As you do. It was a bit of a thrill for a Russophile like myself to hear the boozy Russian singalong on the fade-out but it's a curious collaboration to say the least. *Shrug* I guess if Dolly wants the Moscow Circus, Dolly gets the Moscow Circus.

So, this is not down and muddy twang like I'd usually try to sell you on but Dolly has delivered a fun and delightfully cheesy slice of populist bluegrass which I defy you not to like, at least a little.

Now, where did I put that cab sav?

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