Dolly Parton may be the world’s most iconic living country star, but she ran into the same radio shutout as most other veteran acts. So about a decade ago she ditched the glossy country-pop singles and embarked on a series of bluegrass and acoustic albums. That move restored her cred among country purists, though it also felt a bit constricting for such an outsize entertainer.
It's been three years since Dolly Parton released a new album, and nearly two decades since she put out anything close to a mainstream country offering, so Backwoods Barbie ought to get some serious media attention, although it remains to be seen whether the now 62-year-old Parton will get much play on the new country stations. The first single from the album, the cloyingly wise "Better Get to Livin'," is certainly catchy enough, but the fact remains that Parton's voice isn't quite what it used to be and she wasn't exactly Patsy Cline in the first place. What she is, and has been all these years, is a true iconic presence in country music, a shrewd marketer, an astute businesswoman (Backwoods Barbie appears from her own Dolly Records), and a frequently brilliant if understated songwriter (nine of the 12 tracks here are Parton originals).