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article imageReview: Dolly Parton still the queen of country with new 'Blue Smoke' CD Special

By Markos Papadatos     May 18, 2014 in Music
Country queen Dolly Parton released her 42nd career studio album "Blue Smoke" on May 13, via Dolly Records and Sony Masterworks.
She either wrote or co-wrote nine out of its 12 songs. It was produced by veteran producer Kent Wells, and Parton served as its executive producer.
It commences with the upbeat title track "Blue Smoke," which features her pure mountain vocals. It is followed by the soothing ballad "Unlikely Angel," whose lyrics are vivid and warm ("like the phoenix from the ash and dirt I rose up from the pain and hurt"), especially how the female narrator describes this "unlikely angel" that came into her life and saved her.
Parton dusts off Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" and gives it a rustic feel with dobro, banjo, fiddle and it begins with harmonica.
"You Can't Make Old Friends" is her duet with fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers (as well as the title cut of his album that was released on Warner Music Nashville) and it is a true standout, especially since both musicians are at their vocal best. It garnered them a 2014 Grammy nomination for "Best Country Duo/Group Performance" and to this day, I am saddened that they didn't win, since they both poured a great deal of emotion in this tune, and it displays their undeniable musical chemistry together.
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Photo Courtesy of Webster PR
"Home," co-written with her producer Kent Wells, has a nostalgic vibe to it. She commences the melancholic traditional tune "Banks of the Ohio" a-capella, and it is a dynamic vocal performance by Parton, where she is accompanied by acoustic guitar and fiddle; moreover, the addition of Val Storey and Carl Jackson on backing vocals elevates it to a higher level.
She is also able to take the Bon Jovi rock classic "Lay Your Hands On Me" and twist it into her own spiritual masterpiece. I'm sure Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora would be pleased with it since it was covered by a living musical legend.
"Miss You-Miss Me" is a bittersweet piano-driven ballad, where the female narrator tackles the subject matter of divorce and how she misses her father as a result. The mandolin played throughout the song is a real treat. Parton sings this tune with much delicacy and sentimentalism.
"If I Had Wings" is reminiscent of Patty Loveless' "Soul of Constant Sorrow" from her Mountain Soul CD. Parton showcases her sassy side on the witty "Lover du Jour" and even speaks a few lines in French, which demonstrates her versatility on this project.
"From Here to the Moon and Back" is another collaboration on this CD, this time with Country Music Hall of Famer Willie Nelson. They are backed by a string orchestra, as well as steel guitar, piano and guitars. It is a ballad that is destined to please fans of traditional country music.
It closes on a high note, with the optimistic ballad "Try," which is perhaps her greatest vocal performance since "Dagger Through the Heart." "So try each day to try a little harder; and if you fall, get up and try again," Parton sings, and subsequently gives her fans and listeners the inspiration to enhance their work ethic and persevere in an effort to reach for the stars. This song alone is worth the price of the album.
The Verdict
Overall, Dolly Parton proves to be like fine wine on this brand new album, where she only gets better with every release. She continues to be an inspiration to all thanks to her impressive singing and songwriting. This project truly is a gift from a country music goddess. Parton sings with a lot of heart and her vocals are lilting and timeless. This album should have Grammy written all over it. It garners 5 out of 5 stars. Way to go Dolly. The country music throne is still yours.
To learn more about Dolly Parton and her Blue Smoke CD, visit her website.
More about Dolly parton, Blue Smoke, Country, Bon jovi, Kenny Rogers
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