Single Review: Dolly Parton, “When Life is Good Again”

Dolly Parton

“When Life is Good Again”

Dolly Parton

Written by Dolly Parton

We’re so hungry for decency and empathy right now that it’s tempting to just type “Thank You, Dolly!” and give this song an A.

It feels like both of those virtues are in dangerously low supply these days, and Dolly Parton has a bottomless reservoir of both.  She’s also a relentless optimist, and for the running time of “When Life is Good Again,”  she can make you truly believe that things will not only go back to normal, but be better than they were before.   Provided, of course, that we’re willing to put the work in.

Parton sounds so vulnerable, which may be as much because of age as it is circumstance.   That makes the first two-thirds of the record tremendously powerful, with an intimacy that recalls Parton at her stripped down best.   As she sings that “We’ve been brought down to our knees, we’ve been so ill at ease,” you can feel the ache of the pain she is experiencing because the world is suffering.   Her assertion that “we need to change our ways and right our wrongs…open up our hearts and let the world in” is delivered in a whisper, as if it’s a dream too big to hope for right now, even if it’s the necessary cure for what ails us.

Which is why it was a mistake to bring in the choir.  Sometimes the truth is just more powerful in a whisper, especially when the voices of hate and anger have so effectively claimed volume and noise as their own.  We need calming voices right now that require us to lean in and listen.  For most of “When Life is Good Again,” Dolly Parton is that voice, and until those final moments when other voices join her, it’s the deeply moving record that these dark times demand.

Grade: B+



  1. What an amazing song!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I guess everyone is different, but how this song doesn’t rate an ‘A+’ is beyond me. It’s so wonderful to have someone like Dolly who speaks to and for Believers, as well as those who may not know God. She is the best at taking a worldwide tragedy, seeing the positive in it all, and putting it in God’s hands to heal the world.

    Dolly is a true treasure. I’m wiping the tears away as I type this. It’s just what we need right now – a heartfelt, positive message that comes from love. Thank you so much, Dolly, for sharing your wonderful gifts of songwriting, singing, and enormous heart.

  2. I’d give this an A+. Touching but not preachy! I like the Choir bc if the whole song was sung understated it doesn’t give the urgency that things really are going to get better.

  3. agree we’re hungry for decency and empathy and that for life to be good again, we need to put the work in. Dolly may be a calming voice but has she ever called out those responsible for the hate and division in this country? I don’t think so. She’s probably too old for it now. I admire her generosity, etc but right now we need someone who will speak (or whisper) truth to power, call out the lies. From the music industry, it could be Taylor Swift.

  4. I’d give this a “B”

    I would like this song much better with a simple acoustic accompaniment, maybe even as little as Dolly and her guitar

  5. Agree with Leeann the production brings this down to a C+ for me. I would love to hear a stripped down or live version.

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