Dolly Parton Week kicks off today with the first of two Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists entries. Mine will follow later in the week, along with Classic Country Singles, Retro Album Reviews, Six Packs, and an Ultimate Buyer’s Guide, all focusing on the legendary Hall of Famer. – Kevin
There really isn’t anything that Dolly Parton can’t do. She has a voice like an angel, but is also capable of showboating with the best of them. She plays several instruments, has written more than her share of classic songs, is an actor, owns a popular amusement park and, most importantly, is involved in many philanthropic efforts.
Starting with traditional annual viewings of A Smokey Mountain Christmas on the Disney Channel, Dolly Parton is one of those people that I loved before I even knew what music genres were, let alone country music in particular. So, while I was nervous about whittling down my favorite Dolly songs to a mere 25, I couldn’t resist the chance to participate in Dolly Parton week at Country Universe.
While this is a list of my favorite Dolly songs, I fully realize that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of her deep catalog with the songs that I’ve chosen.
This is a strange little story, but Dolly proves that she’s a great storyteller. There’s talking, singing and even a little yodeling. What more can you ask for in a song?
While it’s true that whenever I think of this song, I am reminded of The White Stripes’ intensely insane version that makes Parton’s version sound considerably tame, “Jolene” is still one of my favorite Dolly songs. She sings with her own quiet intensity that makes us appropriately feel for the jilted woman.
I just think this song is fun. She’s calling this guy out on all of his crap and I suspect that nobody can give a dressing down quite as effectively as Dolly can.
I was actually aware of this song before and liked it despite it being featured on recent Target commercials. She’s trying to convince her experienced man that she’s the one with whom he should settle down. After she gives him a list of things she can do to keep him happy, one can only imagine what she means by “There’s more where that came from.”
For the record, this tribute album to Bill Monroe, spearheaded by Ricky Skaggs, is no doubt worth purchasing. Dolly’s contribution is one of the clear highlights on an all around stellar record.
Dolly’s love of her family is evident throughout her career. She’s proud of where she came from and hasn’t forgotten to pay tribute to her roots no matter how famous or glamorous she’s become. This song is one of the superior tributes.
All of the covers of this Johnny Mathis song have been pretty, but slow. However, this version by Dolly and Keith Urban is sped up quite a bit with a banjo added for good measure. While Dolly often tends to overshadow her male duet partners, Urban manages to hold his own in this recording.
While this song is somewhat silly, I love the sparse production. Likewise, Dolly sings with unusual restraint. She admits that there are a lot of things that won’t make her housewife of the year, but she assures, “you won’t go hungry and I’ll make your bed.”
This poor girl is so worried that her mother wouldn’t approve of her “steppin’ out with that travilin’ man” that she’s blindsided when her mother is actually the one to run off with him. Dolly’s little rant at the end is priceless. Fun stuff!
I’m typically not much of a Charlie Daniels fan, but I’m really glad I picked up this album on a whim. I like just about everything on it, but this duet with Dolly is one of its highlights. It’s catchy and Dolly adds her signature quirkiness that elevates the song to something it wouldn’t have been without her.
I’ll admit that it took some effort not to fill this entire list with songs from Dolly’s trio of bluegrass albums. Limiting them to five was rather difficult, but this is one of the many superb covers that can be found on them. I love this song and I love Dolly, so it stands to reason that this would be my favorite version of this widely covered classic.
While I like Dolly’s original version of this song, from her All I Can Do album, I think this version is superior, likely due to the bluegrass production. There are so many lines that I love in this song that I must refrain from quoting the whole thing. My favorite verse, however is: “If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones/Don’t shatter my image ’til you look at your own/Look at your reflection in your house of glass/Don’t open my closet if your own’s full of trash.” Words to live by, don’t you think?
While many people aren’t necessarily working 9 to 5 jobs these days, this is still a great relatable working person’s anthem that has stood the test of time. I never fail to blast it from my speakers when I get the chance.
As the story goes, this gem penned by Dolly was originally slated to be included on her All I Can Do album until she heard Emmylou Harris’ version. She liked Emmylou’s version so much that she replaced her own version with another song. While Emmylou’s rendering is worth seeking, I’m glad Dolly finally included her own version for this Hits project. She sings this heartbreaking tale of a Mamma finally reaching her breaking point and leaving her family with both a twinge of regret and sympathy. To make the song more intriguing, it’s debatable whose side the child narrator is on, though I’ve personally chosen a side.
I actually usually prefer it when Dolly belts out in her songs, but it’s also nice when she shows vocal restraint once in awhile, which is what she does in “Little Sparrow.” This is an achingly beautiful song with harsh lyrics: “All ye maidens fair and tender/Never trust the hearts of men/They will crush you like a sparrow/Leaving you to never mend.” Ouch!
I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for these hippie inspirational songs that promote love and peace. Who better to cover a song like this than Dolly Parton? You can tell that she means every word of it, which, in turn, makes me want to live it.
I love this song! It’s both simple and gorgeous and there’s just something calming about it. Ricky Van Shelton’s deep voice meshes perfectly with Dolly’s to create this waltz that celebrates the longevity of love.
In this song, Dolly points out to her lover that it’s not fair for him to be able to have a past, but just because she’s a woman, an equal past is somehow unacceptable. She rightly sings, “Just let me tell you this/Then we’ll both know where we stand/My mistakes are no worse than yours/Just because I’m a woman.” While this song is forty years old, the premise remains relevant today, which is disheartening.
Unless she can pretend that “the opposite’s true”, she’ll never be able to get over her lost love. As the title suggests, “The Grass Is Blue” is a clever lyric. It’s the same concept as George Strait’s “Ocean Front Property”, but far superior.
Ah…a Christmas song! Not a very joyful one though. Sadly, it captures the way many people end up feeling at Christmas time all too well. While I love Christmas, this is one of the songs that helps to give me perspective about those who are rightfully less enthused than I am about it.
I’m fully aware that this cheesy song that really makes no sense would not end up on very many people’s favorite Dolly Parton lists. In fact, my husband is a little horrified that this song makes an appearance on my list at all, especially at the expense of songs that he deems far more superior. With that said, there is absolutely no way that I could take this Kenny Rogers duet off of my list. It’s bouncy and I love the way Dolly and Kenny play off of each other. Kenny is right when he says that the song was lifeless before Dolly added her vocals and personality to it. I enjoy this song so much that I don’t even notice the eighties production that I would normally detest.
The way that Dolly sings this song with joyful exuberance is absolutely endearing. The fact that it’s pure bluegrass ear candy doesn’t hurt either.
I love this inspiring song of perseverance. It starts off slow, as if she’s trying to convince herself of the truths of which she is singing. As the song progresses, however, the vocals and the song as a whole get stronger and more convincing, as if she’s finally starting to believe her own pep talk. By the end, I believe her.
Norah Jones clearly has a respect for country music and most particularly, Dolly Parton. I simply can’t get enough of this song. They sound excellent together and it actually sounds as if they’re really enjoying themselves. Moreover, you can’t miss Dolly’s signature laugh at the end.
As it seems to be with most of the songs that end up at the top of my Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists lists, this is certainly not an original or surprising choice. Much has been written about this song, including the fact that the inspiration for it came from Dolly’s real life experience, which is heartbreaking to say the least.
It’s about how her mama painstakingly made a coat of many colors out of a box of small rags for her, because they were too poor to buy her anything else. While she made the coat, she told her the Bible story of Joseph’s special coat of many colors. The story of Joseph’s coat and the fact that the coat was made with her mother’s loving hands made her innocently proud to wear the coat to school, whereupon the other kids laughed and made fun of her. While the teasing confused her and likely embarrassed her, the sweetest part of the song is that she understood the significance of the coat. She understood that the coat was the best that her mother could do. Therefore, she appreciated it despite the memories of social awkwardness that it likely created in her young life.
There are many things that are noteworthy about Dolly Parton, but her sincerity and a heart that truly cares about the human condition is what is most impressive about her. This sensitive heart is what is sufficiently evident in both her life and her songs. There is no doubt that the one who created Dolly’s coat of many colors is the one who also helped to lay the foundation for the Dolly Parton that was able to so eloquently teach us “That one is only poor/Only if they choose to be.”