With over 40 studio albums to her credit, awards and honors in abundance, the 68-year-old Dolly Parton is a monument—not a monument made of stone, but a living monument. And just to make sure that distinction is clear, come May 13 she is releasing a new album, Blue Smoke, and is soon to embark on a world tour. This no nostalgic visit to past glories; this is the album of an artist still looking to create. This is not an old pro resting on her laurels; this is old pro in pursuit of new laurels.
“On this CD,” she says, “I think there are all the colors of my life in all the areas of music that you’ve allowed me to dabble in through the years.” This is Parton old and new, Parton revitalized. There’s some bluegrass. There’s some gospel. There’s some country pop. As Parton puts it, you’ll hear “my old mountain voice,” “my tender side,” and “my funny tongue-in-cheek side.”
What she calls her old mountain voice rolls through the traditional “Banks of Ohio,” for which she has written some additional lyrics and the beautifully folksy “If I Had Wings.” She indulges her tongue-in-cheek side in the clever French-infused lyrics of “Lover du Jour,” a refusal to be the daily special for some Romeo’s delectation. “Miss You – Miss Me” and “Unlikely Angel” are ballads for more tender moments.
The album includes two duets: the haunting “You Can’t Make Old Friends” with Kenny Rogers and the sweet love song, “From Here to the Moon and Back” with Willie Nelson.
Along with a fine bluegrass cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice,” the title song which opens the album is one of those “clickety, clickety, clack” bluegrass train songs. The Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora composition, “Lay Your Hands On Me” moves like gospel rock with a lively message. The album concludes with “Try,” a tune that starts simply, but explodes into a climactic anthem.
Blue Smoke is Dolly Parton at the top of her game.
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