Dolly Parton Blue Smoke A big step up from her last few projects, Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke is her most balanced album since Backwoods Barbie. While it lacks cohesion due to so many different styles being used, there’s a solid entry from every kind of Dolly – country Dolly, pop Dolly, mountain Dolly, gospel Dolly, duet-with-fellow-legend Dolly. While it isn’t likely to be anyone’s favorite Dolly Parton album because of this, it’s also unlikely that any fan of hers won’t find something here that reminds them of why they became a fan in the first place.
Here are three of my current favorites:
Carlene Carter, “Me and the Wildwood Rose”
from the album Carter Girl
“Me and the Wildwood Rose” was always one of my favorite Carlene Carter tracks. Back when it was released in 1990, it had a wistful nostalgia for the grandmother that she had lost. In 2014, all of the other folks mentioned in the song, including her little sister “the Wildwood Rose”, have also passed on. The new version is so heavy with grief, it is only Carter’s effervescent spirit that keeps it from being too heavy.
Her only tangential connection to country was a big one. Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is one of the most successful singles in history, spending 14 weeks at #1 and pushing its parent album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, to sales of 44 million worldwide.
There’s no point in dancing around it.
The Incredible Machine is a terrible album, an unmitigated disaster that manages to fail in ways that shouldn’t even be possible, especially on a mainstream album created by established professionals and released by a major label.
At its best, Sugarland has made successful music by combining clever musical arrangements with strong lyrical hooks, delivered by the inimitable vocal talent that is Jennifer Nettles. I would have deemed a full album being completely devoid of all three components inconceivable, but The Incredible Machine comes frighteningly close.
The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 4: #140-#121
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles
Packed as country music has been lately with rocked-up little singalongs, perhaps it was only natural that one of the leading bands in rocked-up little singalongs should cross over for a bit to show everybody how it’s done. It was newcomer Nettles, though, who stole this show, driving Bon Jovi’s ditty home with an infectiously joyful performance. – Dan Milliken
“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Peak: Did not chart
The arrangement is cool enough, but it’s Cash’s stoic, slicing vocal performance that makes his version of this song so memorable. – Tara Seetharam
Anyone who reads Bob Lefsetz’ “The Lefsetz Letter” knows that Lefsetz is a fairly new country music fan, but a passionate one all the same. I frequently disagree with his current assessment of country music, particularly country radio (although recently he has clued in to its frequent vapidness and monotony), but he’s a fantastic voice out there championing country music.
In a recent letter, he made some interesting statements about his desired role for the future of country music (i.e. the classic rock of the future). After approvingly citing the recent Newsweek article which bemoaned the current state of country music, Lefsetz stated:
Country used to have an edge. My buddy Pete Anderson would love to bring it back. But I’m thinking we’ve just got to move the needle a little bit, and suddenly we’ve got the rock business we used to have, the one that triumphed in the seventies.
This is featured on the latest studio albums from both artists. It’s a high point on the Bon Jovi set, where Rimes injects some needed vibrancy with her soaring vocals. Tacked on the end of Rimes’ Family, however, it’s a low point, an unnecessary addition to a personal and fully satisfying collection of her own compositions. I get the whole synergy thing, and it’s a pretty good single, but when a masterpiece like “What I Cannot Change” is waiting in the wings, it seems such a waste of Rimes’ limited radio space to spend it on this duet. Grade: B Listen: Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore Buy: Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore