It's amazing what albums you can find when you walk in to a store that sells new and used records. Earlier this week, I was walking in downtown Peterborough on a lunch break from my day job when I happened upon this new and used record shop. I like walking through and checking out those stores, so I popped inside for a few minutes. I came across two albums that I meant to pick up when they were originally released, but I never got around to it. One such album sparked the subject of today's writing.
The 2007 Sugar Hill Records release of Just Because I'm a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton came with much fanfare. I recall being excited when this record was released, as it was to include artist interpretations of songs written by Dolly over the years. It should be noted that all of the songs performed were monstrous hits in their day. The performers on the album are all superstars in their own right. I was curious to hear the interpretations of these other fine female artists as they performed the hits of one of my heroes. After four years of not having the album, I finally got down to listening to it.
The album kicks off with a fantastic version of "9 to 5", the song that introduced Dolly to the acting world, as there was a film made of the same name. Alison Krauss has a wonderful interpretation of the song to kick start the album. Melissa Ethridge makes a wonderful contribution with the iconic "I Will Always Love You." Norah Jones does simply an amazing turn on "The Grass is Blue." However, for my money the best track on this album is the Shania Twain with Alison Krauss and Union Station performance of Dolly's autobiographical hit "Coat of Many Colors."
Of course, that's a brief album review but that isn't the point of today's piece. I mention this album for two reasons. The first of course, is to tell everyone to go and pick up this album if they can find it. It's a wonderful piece of work that will benefit every music lovers collection. The other reason was to highlight what a really amazing and phenomenol songwriter Dolly is. When you hear up and coming female performers in country/Americana music speak of their influences, the names that typically come up are Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and more recently, Reba McEntire. But somewhere on that list there has to be room for Dolly Parton. The offerings on this album by these wonderful female artists are performed with such love and admiration for this lady from Sevierville, Tennessee, that the listener can't help but be drawn to the performance. It's only then do you really hear the words that are said in each song. They are works of art ... poetry from a woman who grew up in a home that knew nothing of excess and was able to find her creativity and work hard to become a cultural icon. To this day, Dolly still gives back to her hometown and surrounding community is East Tennessee offering scholarships to graduating high school students and employing thousands at her amusement park, Dollywood.
Dolly Parton is a deserved and honored member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is still putting out albums and has just started a world tour. For aspiring musicians and songwriters out there, you would do well to research this remarkable woman, her words and music