Backwoods Barbie

Dolly Parton

Dolly Records, 2008

http://dollyparton.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/05/2008

What the hell does Rolling Stone magazine know about country music anyway? Their low-rated review of Dolly Parton’s new album, the hilariously titled Backwoods Barbie, simply doesn’t add up. Obviously, the writer isn’t much of a country fan to begin with, let alone a Dolly Parton fan. Fret not, Daily Vault reader, you needn’t think twice about plunking down ten dollars for this album – just do it; it’s definitely a keeper.

I admit, after the high water mark set by Dolly’s bluegrass trilogy (which had started nearly a decade ago), I didn’t think she had it in her to keep on delivering the goods. You can never underestimate Dolly Parton, though, because she has a seemingly endless number of new tricks up her sequined sleeve. As the first release on her brand-spanking new record label named (what else?) Dolly Records, Backwoods Barbie comes jam-packed with extensive liner notes and even a bonus track that changes depending on where you happen to buy the album. My “Best Buy version” has a live cut of one of my favorite Parton classics, “Baby I’m Burnin.”

What makes this a refreshing change from her previous albums is that we finally get a real sense of the human side of this larger than life character. Behind all the glitz, glamour and yes, surgically altered features, lies the sensitive heart of a vulnerable country girl. The image is merely a façade for show, folks. Dolly even freely admits in the title track that she’s always been misunderstood because of the way she looks. I, for one, never for a minute got hung up on her image, as hard as it is not to notice her, uh, trademark ample bosoms. For me, it is the music that really matters. Still, I do sometimes wish she would tone down the over-the-top theatrics and wear less makeup. Maybe then people, especially critics, will start taking her more seriously as an artist and a gifted songwriter.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Things get kicked off on Backwoods Barbie by the surprisingly blunt “Better Get To Livin,” where Dolly seems a little irritated by hearing people complain about their lives so much. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t make for a strong lead-off single, because of its somewhat clichéd lyrics. Oh well, that train has already left the station, so it’s a little late to complain about it now. The next single, “Jesus And Gravity” is also an unfortunate choice because of its exclusive focus on Christianity. Still, as a gospel tune, it’s a good one…as long as you don’t mind being preached to. Different strokes, I guess.

Dolly’s choices of remakes are always exciting since they always seem to come out of left field. From the woman who last brought us a country version of “Stairway To Heaven,” comes her latest renditions of “Drives Me Crazy” (originally by Fine Young Cannibals) and “The Tracks Of My Tears” (the Miracles’ chestnut.) Dolly gives both cover tunes new arrangements and makes each of them her own. I’m telling you, she can put her stamp on practically any song you throw her way – talk about a miracle worker.

Perhaps the strongest stretch is in a trio of songs to be found later in the album. On “The Lonesomes,” Dolly surprises us yet again with a blues number that is nothing short of a showstopper. As for the testy two-some of “Cologne” and “Shinola,” Dolly lays into her two-timing lover but good. You will be blown away by just how much fire and venom this “woman of a certain age” still has left in her. Her band is there to provide the musical ammunition she needs to settle the score, turning “Shinola” into a rare and oh so satisfying rock number for Parton.

Backwoods Barbie is the sound of a female country artist who is still very much in charge and at the top of her game. Nobody can EVER keep this woman down and the world of music is truly better for it.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dolly Records, and is used for informational purposes only.