Dolly Parton, Blue Smoke, Sony
Dolly Parton returns to her rhythmic roots with the release of her 42nd (yes, that’s right) studio album, Blue Smoke. Parton generously offers us two dulcet discs of new recordings, mirrored by those golden, “guilty pleasure” greats.
‘Blue Smoke’ kick-starts this jam-packed aural affair. Parton choo-choos like a tuneful train and employs a multi-voice backing to add to the textural charm of this track. The bass-baritone of one backing singer in particular is a delight to the ears. Mixing in cover versions such as Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’, showcases the authentic melancholy that Parton still commands with her chromatic voice.
Parton reprises her partnership with Kenny Rogers on ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’, with the talent of award-winning music writer Don Schlitz to assist. This country choral combination, results in an affectionate ballad on friendship that provides us with a tilt on the classic ‘Islands in the Stream’ (another Rogers/Parton duet on disc number two). Similarly, the powerful pop track ‘Home’ gives a twist to its sister song featured on the second CD, ‘My Tennessee Mountain Home’.
Traditional arrangements resurface on ‘Banks of the Ohio’ but Parton controls the balance of solemnity and levity just right. The Tennessee-born star offers up ‘Lover du Jour’ as a lighter note, as she flirts outrageously and apologises for her poor French accent. “They’re gona laugh at me in France, sorree!” she coos.
The first disc is a wholesome hoot, however, it does lack those undeniable hits which Parton’s back-catalogue boasts. The genius of her cute ‘n’ cooky quirks, mixed with authentic emotion in ‘Jolene’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’ can now be relived in the ‘Best Of’ compilation. Blue Smoke is a delightful romp.