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Dolly Parton: Rockstar review – country legend’s debut rock album is like endless karaoke | Dolly Parton

Alexis Petridis’ album of the week

(Butterfly/Great Machine)
Parton’s own songs are great and her voice is always strong and full of character, but it’s often not a good fit for these star-assisted rock covers from Paul McCartney to Lizzo.

Thu November 16, 2023 7:00 AM EST

Dolly Parton has done it all. She asserted her primacy over the reactionary forces of the Nashville music industry, sold 100 million records, wrote many classic songs, broke into Hollywood, opened her own amusement park and made naming in it a species of lichen, a Soviet battle tank and a cloned sheep. honor. It’s a delicious and fully deserved situation, but it comes with a problem: what do you do next?

Rockstar’s artwork.

His 49th solo album attempts to answer this question. Rockstar was born when Parton was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She initially declined to be inducted, saying she was a country artist, then reconsidered her decision, announcing she would record a rock album to justify her inclusion. We want to like the results – as the Hall of Fame story points out, with her cocktail of self-deprecation and can-do attitude, Parton is not only extremely talented but immensely likeable – yet a distinct sense of panic sets in when you see the tracklist, on which a sprinkling of Parton originals mix with covers often featuring the original artists or great latter-day replacements: Elton John, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Pink. The song selection suggests that either Parton has what you might charitably describe as a very basic relationship with rock music, or that she’s opted for crowd-pleasing. It feels like a forced march through the results of a Radio 2 poll to find the nation’s favorite rock anthems: We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You, Stairway to Heaven and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction , Every Breath You Take. , Free Bird, Let It Be, Heart of Glass and – there’s no consideration of taste in these polls, is there? – What’s new? by 4 Non Blondes. But it’s the length of the tracklist that leaves you reaching for a brown paper bag to breathe into. It goes on and on like the end credits of a blockbuster movie. Rockstar features 30 songs and lasts the better part of two and a half hours, which even someone desperate to hear Dolly Parton sing Stairway to Heaven together with Lizzo might consider that too much is a good thing.

Rockstar could have gotten away with the obviousness of its material if it had chosen to do something interesting with it, but virtually all of the covers here seem to have been done as close to the original version as possible: the listening gives the impression of being trapped in a karaoke bar where Dolly Parton, after going on stage to surprise and delight everyone, now drunkenly refuses to let go of the microphone. She still has a great voice, but it’s also extremely distinctive, and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that she doesn’t necessarily fit these songs in these arrangements. For some reason, she seems particularly jarring while trying out We Are the Champions. She absolutely sings Every Breath You Take, which doesn’t do much for the song’s subtly creepy undercurrent.

Dolly Parton: We are the champions/We will rock you – video

Not everything is bad here. She sounds good on the southern rock of Freebird and in a duet with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus on Wrecking Ball. Long As I Can See the Light by Creedence Clearwater Revival has a hymn-like vibe that suits it perfectly. Parton’s own songs range from pretty good to great, although whether My Blue Tears, originally from 1971’s Coat of Many Colors, is greatly improved by the addition of a Simon Le Bon vocal is, at best, a moot point. Bygones, however, is a hoot – Parton-written stadium metal that doesn’t sound like pastiche, bolstered by appearances from Rob Halford and Nikki Sixx – but it makes you think: Wait, if you can write rock songs to this level. yourself, what the hell are you doing blasting your way through Keep on Loving You alongside REO lead singer Speedwagon?

This isn’t the only way to consider a different approach from Rockstar, with more pleasing results. It might have been better if Parton had invited these songs into her own world: clearly, hearing a country or bluegrass version of What’s Up? It’s unlikely to top anyone’s music list, but it has to be an improvement over the identikit version here. But of course a country album wouldn’t have been relevant. Rockstar opens with a sketch in which Parton, apparently practicing widdly-woo metal guitar, is interrupted by some mellow southern accents advising her to stick to what she knows. They are presumably intended to recall the Music Row naysayers, whom Parton heroically challenged earlier in her career. But from the perspective of a listener tearfully begging for mercy in the middle of a version of Aerosmith’s I Want You Back – on which Parton and Steven Tyler both deliver their vocals with such torrential force that it feels less like a duo than a systematic attempt to harm each other. hearing – the naysayers of the mellow accent begin to appear not as closed-minded gatekeepers, but as the voices of common sense.

This week Alexis listened

PinkPantheress – Bury Me with Kelela
I appreciate it now, before my teenage daughter plays it so often I never want to hear it again: PP’s Auto-Tuned sweetness perfectly tempered by Kelela’s cool R&B.

Gn En tech

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