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Dolly Parton: Those were The Days

We feel the room swayin’, while the bands playin’ one of your old favorite songs from way back when…

Ah, Dolly! Whether you’re into the new country or the old country, like I am, there is no doubt that Dolly Parton’s newest CD is a real delight. You know you’re dealing with a major talent when you can take a bunch of old war protest songs, some minor rock tunes and a few 60’s and 70’s hits, turn ‘em over to Dolly and let her rework them with her old special magic and come up with a powerhouse of an album.

In 1996 Dolly recorded Treasures, which a host of critics panned. Their main problem with the Treasures album was that it featured some offerings that they called “gimmicky” such as Parton singing Cat Stevens’ anti-war anthem, “Peace Train,” with a South African choral group, and Neil Young’s science-fiction fantasy, “After the Goldrush,” with Alison Krauss and Suzanne Cox of the Cox Family.

Those Were the Days, is an album of covers as well but is decidedly a much finer album both in terms of songs, the stellar arrangements and the production quality overall. Dolly takes some old gems and several really crap songs, reworks them in her own bluegrass style and offers up a wide range of duet partners. Here you can find her partnered with many of the original artists as well as names that will appeal to the younger and the older generation alike. Original artists featured on the CD include Mary Hopkins, Tommy James, Roger McGuinn, and Judy Collins. New artists include Nicklel Creek, Keith Urban, Alison Krauss, Mindy Smith, Don Tyminski, Joe Nichols, Rhonda Vincent and David Foster. Special guest musicians include Chris Thile, Bryan Sutton, Sam Bush and David Foster.

The title song “Those Were the Days” is sung along side the song’s originator Mary Hopkin. As a side note: The origins of the melody are Russian and date from the 19th century. It was in 1962, when Gene Raskin penned a set of English lyrics, that it became popular in the West. And it was only when Paul McCartney recruited Welsh teenager Hopkin to record the song in 1968 that it became an around the world hit.

Australian country-rock hero Keith Urban joins her on Roger Miller’s “Twelfth of Never” and the bluegrass trio Nickel Creek supports Ms. Parton on the ultra popular “Blowin’ in the Wind”. On “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and “Both Sides Now,” we can find her singing along with the likes of Norah Jones, Lee Ann Womack and Judy Collins.

There are a couple odd choices in the group such as Parton tackling John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Some may call her choice of rendering this song a waste of time, I prefer to think that she took a piece of shit song and made it saleable. Dolly also does a hell of a job on Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” adding a banjo and fiddle arrangement and giving it some self-respect.

Other selections include the 1960’s hit “Me and Bobby McGee” which she performs with Kris Kristofferson. Now, to anyone who grew up in the 60s, Dolly could never replace Janis Joplin in this rendition of a classic. She doesn’t try. Dolly knows from whence she comes and gives us, instead of another tired imitation of Janis, her own spot on rendition of this song. “If I Were a Carpenter,” features duet partner Joe Nichols. ‘Carpenter’ was never a favorite of mine and it remains so. Sorry Dolly.

Her rendition of “The Cruel War,” which she does with Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, and Mindy Smith is appropriately touching and genuine. Dolly proves she can melt anyone’s cold, cold heart. Dolly also invites her old partner and former adversary Porter Wagoner to join her on the title track, and Cat Stevens, to play acoustic guitar on his own “Where Do the Children Play.”

Dolly whom we all know is a Country Music Hall of Famer, Grammy winner, and Oscar nominee says of this album: “I am really very proud of this album. I love all of these songs and all of the artists who performed, it just felt special from the moment the concept came to my mind. I knew I had to produce it myself in order to get all of my ideas across exactly as I wanted them to be presented. I really hope people enjoy it. I know I enjoyed making it”.

Parton, who just turned 60, has acquired quite a large gay following throughout the years. One of the traits that make her beloved by everyone who meets her, and especially gay men, is her keen sense of humor and her ability to laugh at her self. Her celebrated looks, which jump started her career as much as her vocal and song writing ability did, was a conscious strategy to win attention from a public that still thought of country music singers as dumb as dirt hillbillies. “It costs a lot to make a person look this cheap,” Dolly is fond of saying.

After having grown up in and among the impoverished, Dolly had a yearning for the bright lights and the extravagant. “If I were a man I would have been a drag queen,” she adds. Many years ago while on Larry King’s show, Larry asked Dolly if she felt insulted by all of the “dumb blonde” jokes that were going around. Dolly smiled and replied “No I’m not. For one thing, I know I’m not dumb. For another thing, I know I’m not blonde”.

Like Keith Urban is heard saying at the end of “Twelfth of Never” ‘You give me chills, darlin’’. Yep she does. She sure does.


One Response to “Dolly Parton: Those were The Days”

  1. Threes Company Says:

    […] I got home to find out “some guy” is running late and won’t be gracing us with his sexual pleasures for another hour. The next half hour was spent answering what turned out to be a very difficult question, one that I knew wouldn’t go away until I was at ease with the answer; what music do you play while simultaneously fucking two people? Seriously though, I settled on some mix cd’s I had made a while ago, little Green Day, some club remixes, even a little Dolly for good measure; I’m not married to the decision though, so if anyone has any suggestions give me a holler. […]

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