Dolly Parton is an unimpeachable icon of country music. In a staggering five-decade long career, she has sold more than 100 million records – including 25 albums that went gold (or better), 25 songs topping the Billboard Country Chart, and over 110 singles that have charted. Plus, she’d be the first one to make a bawdy pun about her ‘greatest hits’.
Parton is a complete contradiction. On the surface, she’s an over-exaggerated caricature based on a sassy street-walking lady she saw as a child in Tennessee, but in reality she’s a spiritual, small town mountain girl who has been married – to her ‘first and only one’ – for 48 years, as well as funding both a library and theme park in her own name.
Her music also reveals both sides, purring “hey there loverboy” as the opening of ‘Lover Du Jour’ one minute, before celebrating her partner with the tender “It feels so good inside your love, like god has sent you from above” the next.
The album’s name and themes take you to the sounds and sights of her Smoky Mountains home and the bluegrass music played there. In among her own tales of trains, rivers, and big-hearted love, Kenny Rogers pops up on a duet fittingly about old friends. Parton croons along with Willie Nelson about an almost endless love, goes for a mournful stroll with Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’, and even turns a Bon Jovi stadium filler into a fiery, twangin’ gospel chant.
Blue Smoke is fun, cheeky, tender, homely, sincere, star-studded, and uplifting across its dozen dazzling tracks, just like Ms Parton herself.
Listen to ‘Blue Smoke’ from Blue Smoke here: