Friday, August 04, 2017

Dolly Parton - Little Sparrow

I've been wanting to explore more of Dolly Parton's work, but, despite her obvious talent, she has done a lot of material that is far too commercial for my tastes. This, her 36th (!) album, was released in 2001 as part of a folk/bluegrass trilogy and these songs are certainly more up my alley.

Opening with the title track, "Little Sparrow" is an amazing vocal performance - emotional bluegrass with incredible and creative vocal harmonies and a backing that builds in intensity as the song progresses, with melodic fiddle, steel guitar and clawhammer banjo. From there we get "Shine" by Collective Soul, with Nickelcreek backing her on this catchy, quiet, pop number. "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby" is the great Louvin Brothers number written by Autry Inman, "My Blue Tears", from her 1971 record, Coat of Many Colors, is a testament to her range and control, "Seven Bridges Road" by Steve Young (previously covered by the Eagles, among others) opens with excellent acapella and breaks into a fine bluegrass hoe-down and "Bluer Pastures" is a nice country/bluegrass ballad.

"A Tender Lie" was apparently a hit for Restless Heart, who I am not familiar with, and it is not a standout here, though it is a pleasant ballad but it is followed by Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" that gets a neat arrangement that mixes jazz and bluegrass and is one of my faves here. "Mountain Angel" is a sweet folk song, "Marry Me" is a harmony-driven, traditional bluegrass number, "Down From Dover" was originally from her 1970 album, The Fairest of Them All, and is another slow number with superior vocals.She shows off her vocal prowess yet again in "The Beautiful Lie" - terrific range and neat, near-yodels - the gospel number "In the Sweet By-and-By" is given a quiet, harmony-laden arrangement and the record closes with a reprise of "Little Sparrow".

Dolly is an incredible singer, with control and range beyond most people's imagination, and while production can bog her down sometimes (although I'm sure it helps her to reach a wider audience), when she has quality material, as she does here, she truly excels. A fine record!