Release Date: 10.14.03
Record label: Sugar Hill
Genre(s): Trance, Big Beat, Ambient, House, Trip-Hop, etc.
Great Underrated Songwriter Gets Half a Tribute
by: matt cibula
Given: That Dolly Parton is more than just a country singer with hugely inflated breasts. You do know that, don’t you? If you don’t, you should pay attention; her voice is still one of the finest instruments being used in American music, and her songwriting skills are even more impressive than her voice.
(If you are an anti-country snob, you might as well stop reading right here. Plus, go slam your head in the door or something. You suck about as much as people who like all kinds of music except rap.)
So this tribute to the songs she has written should kill, but it doesn’t, and that’s frustrating. It starts off weakly, with Alison Krauss’ subdued bluegrass-lite reading of “9 to 5”—the only reason for this song to exist is because it’s a fun trivial bounce, and Krauss has no idea how to do that. Melissa Etheridge’s take on the chestnut “I Will Always Love You” is even worse, all head and no heart; it’s clear that she’s singing to hear herself sing, that what she will always love is the sound of her own voice. And it will come as no shock that Shania Twain hits all the right notes but has no feeling whatsoever on “Coat of Many Colors.”
But enough of that, let’s talk about the kick-ass stuff. I’ve never liked Joan Osborne until now, after hearing her perfectly undersing “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” and Sinead O’Connor nails “Dagger Through the Heart” by doing the same thing, really stretching it out only on the choruses. (She could have a country career if she came out of retirement, until the inevitable insane crackup.) Kasey Chambers takes the difficult “Little Sparrow” and knifes it right in the heart with her big little voice.
Brilliant move to get sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer to both do songs, and they rise to the occasion. Moorer goes ambient dub, almost, on “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” and makes it work because she’s got the best voice in country music; Lynne does her new indie-rocker thing on “The Seeker.” Let’s also give many props to the producers for asking Me’shell N’Degéocello to take on “Two Doors Down.” Her sexy vamp doesn’t exactly fit in, but it’s brave and hott and wonderful.
The best song here, and maybe of all time, is “Jolene,” and newcomer Mindy Smith knocks it out of the park with stunning wounded clarity. This is one of the best singles of the year, and I can’t wait for her first album, which is due in January.
And then, there’s the bonus track. I won’t give it away, but maybe Dolly herself shows up. And maybe she shames virtually everyone else by just opening her mouth. A pretty ending, because it’s about the song itself, rather than the singer. Some people should keep that in mind, yo. 09-Jan-2004 5:45 PM