Release Date: Jun 28, 2011
Record label: Dolly Records
Genre(s): Country, Contemporary Country, Country-Pop
"I'm country to the core," sings Dolly Parton on her latest album — and Better Day proves she's right. Dolly's high lonesome Tennessee drawl carries nearly five decades' worth of hitmaking history, and lord knows how many centuries worth of Smoky Mountains folk wisdom. Parton composed every song on here, which is a mixed blessing; she can write tart and tight, but on love songs like "Together You and I" her purple pen gets the best of her.
Parton is that rare singer who can make optimism seem like a viable philosophy. When country music goes upbeat, it often traffics in cornball novelty tunes, but Dolly plays her album full of love ‘n’ hope with straight-up sincerity. In the midst of hard economic times, the positive anthems that fill Better Day — all new material, no covers — come off as brilliant strategy, with some equally brilliant vocal performances.
As she cruises into her mid-sixties, it’s comforting to know that Dolly Parton has lost none of her joy and vitality, and her 41st studio album, Better Day, released on her own Dolly Records imprint, is an energetic, spirited, and hopeful outing that rocks and soars with enough musical sunshine to light up even the grayest day. It simply crackles with joy and hope, and where in lesser hands such boundless good will might seem artificially forced and naïve, Parton pulls it off because, well, she’s Dolly Parton. Lost sometimes in her status as a pop and country icon is the fact that Parton has always written good songs, and she penned all 12 here, and her longtime guitar player Kent Wells, who produced things, has given her a big and bright contemporary country sound that should garner her a good deal of radio time in a fair and equitable world.
“Grindstones and rhinestones, that made up my life,” Dolly Parton writes on the driving “The Sacrifice,” a dobro-laced song about work ethic and commitment, “but I’ve shined like a diamond through sacrifice. ” With things being tough all over, count on Dolly Parton to grab a handful of sparkle and let it shine. After a serious foray into rootsgrass, the undisputed heavyweight champ of modern country returns to the mainstream with a collection that reflects her unsinkable tenacity and charm.
Forty-one albums in and [a]Dolly Parton[/a] hasn’t lost any of the perkiness present in her 1967 debut [b]‘Hello, I’m Dolly’[/b]. Unlike the rest of the still-with-us Americana stars who broke through in the same era, she hasn’t become a mumbling [a]Bob Dylan[/a] or a grouchy [a]Neil Young[/a]. Somehow she still dodges the realms of parody, which is pretty impressive considering that hair and those tits.
I keep hearing new songs about the apocalypse, the reckoning, about hell being here already in the lives of the poor and the downtrodden, and heaven being an unknown. The theme crosses genres—like YACHT’s album-length warning against dreams of the afterlife becoming a replacement for engagement with the world as it exists now to Brad Paisley’s song about personal hells being worse than any afterlife-hell could be. Leave it to Dolly Parton to be the cheeriest about it, on her new album’s leadoff track “In the Meantime”, while singing the same essential message: We don’t know what’s going to happen when, so let’s make the most of things here, even in the face of pain and despair.
Forty-four years as a recording artist have not diminished Parton's sass. From her folksy, half-spoken welcome on the bluesy "Better Day" ("You gotta keep the faith, 'cause I believe there's a better day") to the jaunty, if moralising, hoedown of "In the Meantime", studio album number 41 is turbo-powered by her trademark can-do spirit and feelgood key changes. The indomitable optimism can get a bit much – on "Together You and I" she actually exhorts the listener to "paint a pretty rainbow brushed with love across the sky".
Better Day is Dolly Parton's 41st album, so it's hard to criticize her for falling back on a formula or 20. The 65-year-old icon keeps the Dolly brand alive with another unfailingly cheery, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps country-pop record, this one tackling doomsday 2012ers, career sacrifices and matters of the heart. While 1999's The Grass Is Blue kicked off a trilogy of bluegrass-rooted albums that refreshed her sound and relevance (2001's Little Sparrow even included an inspired cover of Stairway To Heaven), none of the follow-ups have comparably stood out.
Parton’s 41st studio LP sparkles with the enthusiasm of a debut. Andrew Mueller 2011 In the fifth decade of her career, and with a quiet regularity unusual for her species of kitsch megastar, Dolly Parton continues to make new records (Better Day is her sixth since the turn of the century). While she clearly believes that she got where she is through dogged graft, and that it’s work that will maintain her position, Better Day has none of the grudging, cranked-out-by-the-yard tone that might be expected.
DOLLY PARTON “Better Day”. (Dolly Records/Warner Music Nashville).