Parton’s sympathetic lyrical portrait of a southern preacher deftly weaves classic gospel songs into its lyrics. There was an old-timey quality to her duets with Wagoner anyway, so the subject matter lends itself quite well to the old-fashioned production.
By now, we’re at the point where Parton’s gift as a writer has transcended any form of normalcy.
This yodel-laden cover of an early country music standard gave Parton her highest charting single to date, with or without Porter.
She sings the fire out of it, and it’s easy to imagine it standing out sharply from everything else on the radio in 1970.
But as the new single included on a compilation of her best singles and album tracks to date, it sounds trite. That’s the inevitable result of writing “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy”, “Just Because I’m a Woman”, and “Down From Dover.”
Originally a hit for George Jones as “A Girl I Used to Know”, their effective cover gave Porter & Dolly their second top five hit.
The harmonies are beautiful, and the steel guitar works wonders. You can hear Parton growing as a vocalist during the moments that Wagoner gets out of the way, and when Parton takes a back seat, it’s clear that Wagoner is in his singing prime.
The song’s become a standard, so it feels odd to nitpick over its flaws. But I have to say that what holds this record back is the questionable horn section. Thankfully, they only disrupt the song at its opening and its closing.
Far too polite and matronly to make for an interesting country record.
“Always, Always” plays more like an Episcopalian church hymn, with two singers pledging their love so antiseptically that they might as well be promising to pick up milk and eggs on the way home from work.
For Wagoner & Parton together, however, this tale of a young girl who is afraid of the dark is only subtle when measured against the jawdroppingly tasteless “I Get Lonesome By Myself” and “The Party.”
Here’s the premise: Jeannie is afraid of the dark. She sleeps with mommy and daddy and has a panic attack when she goes to the cemetery to place flowers on old family graves, knowing that it’s awfully dark down there.
Connoisseurs of country songs like this know there’s only one logical way for this song to end. She triumphs over her fears and grows into a confident young woman. She gets killed off in the third act and the parents place an eternal flame on her grave.
Porter & Dolly scored a double-sided hit single in 1968, with both sides establishing a subgenre within their catalog.
The A-side, “We’ll Get Ahead Someday”, became their first top five hit. It’s the first single of theirs that casts them as the playfully quarreling husband and wife.
It’s not quite as charming as “Two Sides to Every Story”, which appeared on their debut album, because the humor’s a bit too subtle. Perhaps it’s too grounded in reality, as the duo of faults presented – she’s spending too much at the store and he’s spending too much at the bar – are delivered a little too straight for the lyric’s own good.
Their live performances of the song capture the playfulness of the song more effectively.
A large part of the appeal of these classic duets is that it feels like you’re eavesdropping on a real couple.
The emotional honesty here is so raw that even the band knows to hold back and leave the singers front and center. There’s no ironic detachment here; the feelings are truly being felt.
And just when you think that the title is being stretched too thin from overuse, and that perhaps there aren’t enough ideas here to finish the rest of the record, Parton sings, “I feel guilty when they envy me and you”, bringing a whole new level of pathos to the table.