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Dolly Articles

This section contains Dolly articles from magazines, and other sorts.I am looking for older articles too, so if you have any or a link that does, send it to me at I know of some, and look for them to appear in the next few weeks.

Rolling January 23, 2001

Dolly Parton Shines Again

Parton talks Bill Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Collective Soul and other things bluegrass

There's a magnitude about Dolly Parton that has absolutely
nothing to do with her bust. Over the past three-plus
decades, she has become a living, breathing international
icon, her name easily as familiar as that of Frank Sinatra. But
while achieving such an indelible slot in the public
consciousness by merit of personality alone is no small feat,
such fame does not always do justice to the formidable talent
that launched Parton in the first place. Parton has penned
some of country music's timeless gems and performed them in
one of the genre's most distinctive voices, but thanks in part
to her forays into pop and Hollywood, an entire generation
has grown up with a novelty notion of her.

But Parton's roots run deep, and over the past three years,
she has fired off a loose trilogy of beautiful, rootsy albums,
starting with Hungry Again, a tradition-minded lost classic
that suffered a terrible, early death due to label
shutdownanoma. Never the sort to back away from a
challenge, Parton dusted herself off and let loose 1999's The
Grass Is Blue, a bluegrass effort of originals and old covers
that even won over the finicky set of bluegrass purists (and
nabbed her a pair of Grammy nominations). Now, with the
release of her second foray into bluegrass, Little Sparrow,
Parton again proves to be a masterful songwriter with a
handful of originals of uncompromising traditional beauty and
a couple of delicious covers that will send you scrambling for
the credits in the liner notes. Her inimitable persona may
forever attract the most attention, but Parton's art will always
be the quiet-yet-greater colossus.

"I've found a comfort zone," she says of her latest output. "If
the music's real, people will always respond to it. Sometimes
we get forced to go back to doing what we should do."

Your last three albums seem to mark a sort of return to

Well return to roots, I guess I never really left my roots. I
think that's the thing that's kept me sane all these years no
matter what else I've done. I have been fortunate that I get to
do all this stuff; to do the movies, to have a fan base in a lot
of different areas. I've always stayed true to my roots and
true to myself and that music is the most natural form. Now
there's no pressure, since I'm not doing it to make a living
anymore 'cause I've managed to do a few things like
Dollywood and my production company where I can make a
living doing other things.

So I had decided I was going to do some more traditional
things. When I did Hungry Again, I went back to my old home place where I was born and
raised and made it like a retreat. I went up there and wrote about thirty-seven songs and recorded
a lot of 'em which I thought was a good springboard. Mainly I just wanted to get back to real

So what inspired you to go the bluegrass route?

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life because Hungry Again didn't sell that well. I wasn't
really even looking for a label. And Steve Buckingham, who is my friend, and producer of many,
many years, had mentioned that Sugar Hill Records had done some sort of survey and asked who
the bluegrass fans thought should make a bluegrass album and I won. I said, "Well let's do one."
And for this one, we feel we've captured what we had on The Grass Is Blue, we've just taken it a
few steps further.

In the wake of Bill Monroe's passing, there's been a bit of a bluegrass boom -- from the
success of Alison Krauss over the years to Steve Earle's recent foray.

People like bluegrass. It's had a following amongst a lot of hip and young people. A lot of college
kids like bluegrass. Everything's so complicated these days, I think a lot of the appeal is the
simplicity. It's not a bunch of electrified instruments and drums -- you just hear this beautiful clean
music played so well, these perfect harmonies. You can hear what they're singing, you can hear
the quality of the voice of the singer. So I think they're liking the simplicity of that. Bill Monroe was
wonderful and his passing left a big gap there . . . a Cumberland Gap. [Laughs].

Your originals blend so well with the traditional material. Do you find it hard to make them
flow together?

That's the easiest stuff for me to do. It goes back to my childhood. My mother used to sing a lot.
There was just always a bunch of singing going on around our place. And those old songs were
the ones we heard the most. So it's just embedded in me and it's the easiest thing in the world.
That's the stuff that comes out of me the easiest. To take some new stuff and make it sound old.

You also seem to relish the opportunity to transform non-bluegrass songs into the format.

Well I think it's good being a country girl that can go to the city. It's served me well living in all the
worlds I've lived in: from when I was young and we had no electricity, no running water, outdoor
toilet and then to come all the way to this technical world that we live in now. I hear everything. I
love all kinds of music, and I've done a lot of it.

I don't think I've ever heard a Sinatra chestnut ["I Get a Kick Out of You"] recast as

My husband is a big acid rock fan. And he loves Led Zeppelin and bluegrass and in between he
listens to a lot of those old time radio shows. And he just loves old time pop music like Frank
Sinatra. There was a time where he played "I Get a Kick Out of You," and I listened and I
thought, that's such a drag-ass little song. I mean I like it, it's pretty, but it's just so slow. It has a
pretty melody structure, and I thought, "That might make a cute bluegrass song." Same with
[Collective Soul's] "Shine." My husband had that record in the house and it was a favorite of mine.
I kept thinking that's a great message song. I didn't know if I could do it, because it sounded so
rock. Then one day I thought that's so pretty, if I just took that guitar off and put some mandolin
on . . . add some bluegrass harmonies, it would be great. Anyway, we got in the studio with these
musicians that never get to play that kind of stuff. True bluegrassers have to be very careful
because they get crucified [for covering non-traditional material], but when it's my ass on the line
they say, "Well we can help you." And they just loved it. If you have songs lying around the house,
or a song that you love, well why wouldn't you at least try? And they've been getting a kick out of
"Kick Out of You." [Laughs].

Any other left-field covers we can expect in the future?

Oh absolutely. But I'm not giving that away, because somebody'll go out and do it first now that
everybody's on to these things. I have some great songs, I keep a list of 'em. But you have to do it
right. You have to be true to it. It's very important to not make it a joke or hokey.

The true bluegrass fans are a tough bunch to crack.

They are. And they still gave me [the International Bluegrass Music Awards] bluegrass album of
the year. So I'm gonna bust my ass to try and do everything I can. Bluegrass has really come on
strong and I'm just thrilled to death to be a part of it.

Do you think it might make any ripples in Nashville?

You know what, it wouldn't just surprise me at all that doing an album so pure that that'd be the
very thing that country music would play, but to be honest with you, I could give a shit less. I've
been at it so long trying to get them to play things, now I'm doing this strictly for the sake of music,
'cause it's something I love to do. I'm paying for these albums out of my own pocket and then
leasing them to Sugar Hill -- they're on my little label, Blue Eye records in a joint venture. But I
know I'm gonna make enough money back to pay for the expenses of making the record, and if
that's all it ever does, that's pretty good to me because to me it's the joy of getting to finally do
something the way I wanna do it without having to listen to a bunch of record people and
executives, managers and a bunch of radio saying, "We won't play this." This does not mean, by
the way, that I'm not gonna continue to do other music, though. I have a lot of fans in a lot of areas
so I may make a pop, country or dance record, but I will always do this.

Sounds like the genre has given you a comfortable degree of creative control.

It's because these people are honest. They have to sing or they die. If you're not being played, if
you don't have a label, you're going to find an outlet for you, if you're smart and it means that much
to you. It's just like with me, I was working in something else, I worked as a waitress as so many
do, just to make enough money to keep singing. But thank goodness, I'm fortunate that I've been
able to make money doing other things, but nothing I ever do could take the place of my music.
That's what brought me out of the Smokey Mountains, that's what sent me to Nashville. That's
what got me to Hollywood. Every thing is based on a song. All the other things I had going,
sometimes it's been good, sometimes it's worked against me, having to overcome my own image.

But I had such a good time doing it, I know what the true me is, and it shows in songs like "Little
Sparrow" and "The Grass is Blue." But by the same token, somebody asked me yesterday on a
radio show, "Now that you're doing all these bluegrass albums, are you going to start dressing
down?" I said, "Hay-ell no!" I'm not wearing overalls, just because I'm singing about a farmer.
And I'm not gonna wear a smock because I'm singing about a pregnant woman. And if I do it's
gonna have beads and rhinestones on it. I'm a showgirl in addition to all that other stuff. So it
works for me, it works against me, but it works. I think the fact that I look totally artificial, but I
am totally real, has it's own kind of magic in it.


Rolling February 16, 1999

Something About Three Queens

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris come together again for 'Trio

Off camera, they hardly seem like divas, let alone legends. They could be any three immaculately made-up, everyday women gabbing over afternoon tea during a trip into the big city. They talk about shopping: Linda wants to find some heavy winter coats for her young children, because you just
can't find such things back home in Arizona. They discuss fashion: Emmylou recounts a high-heels horror story in which Willie Nelson plays a bit part and swears that she couldn't be paid to ever wear the damn things again. "You couldn't pay me not to wear them," replies Dolly with customary cheek. And talk turns to food: A big ol' bowl of mashed potatoes with gravy sure would hit the spot, comments Dolly to nods
of agreement.

At a cue from the director, the women cut the small talk, sit up straight and put on their perkiest smiles (none so perky as Dolly's) for the twin cameras in front of them. A piece of paper taped underneath one camera tells them they're being beamed via satellite to so-and-so reporter from such-and-such TV station in this-or-that city. Inevitably, so-and-so from ABC News or TNN or a local news station in Cleveland or Nashville concludes their allotted time with a song request, and the magic begins. Three strikingly different voices -- Parton's Tennessee mountain soprano, Ronstadt's strong, clear alto and Harris' other-worldly vibrato -- melt into one shimmering wonder for what may well be the most
transcendental version of Neil Young's 1970 classic "After the Gold Rush" since ... well, the previous interview ten minutes ago.

To simply call it a display of grace under pressure would be criminal. The women are in the midst of a three-hour block of satellite interviews and have been up since before 5 a.m. for a taping of Rosie O'Donnell. And yet the a cappella performance is nothing short of rapturous.

"Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming / Saying something about a queen ..."

After a tantalizing verse, they stop short like a phoenix in mid-ascension. "That's all you get," Parton teases playfully. "Y'all have to buy the album to hear the rest."

The album in question is Trio II, the long-delayed follow-up to their Grammy and Academy of Country Music award-winning Trio album, which launched four Top Ten hits in 1987. The release of Trio II is only slightly less miraculous than the supernatural wonder of these voices together.

Not two years ago, the very idea of Parton, Ronstadt and Harris sitting together again like this, patting each other lovingly and throwing around words like "sisters" and "friends," would have seemed a pipe-dream. "I can't work with [Parton]," Ronstadt told music magazine Goldmine in 1996, echoing similar sentiments of disillusionment from Harris after Parton's calendar conflicted with the original release and promotional schedule of Trio II, which was finished in 1994. Parton fired her own volley in a '95 Ladies Home Journal interview, chastising her sisters in harmony for aborting the project rather than cut her enough slack to finish up her other business so she could devote her promised time to the album. "I would have lived up to my word, but my word wasn't good enough for them," she said at the time. "Finally, I just said, 'The hell with it, sue me.'"

Thankfully, it never came to that. "We apologized to each other," explains Ronstadt, laughing. "We
apologized," echoes Parton, "Then we all got together in a room and they kicked the shit out of me. They beat me up and I begged for forgiveness. Actually, we just talked that out. You know, we're like family. It wasn't anything major. They were upset with me for having to change things, and I don't blame them. And I was hurt at them for not understanding, so we just acted ..." Parton tenses like a cat and grits her teeth to illustrate. Ronstadt pats her arm and Harris weighs in: "It was great when the opportunity came up to finally get the record out, but it was even better to talk to each other again."

Bygones. They ready themselves for more satellite-beamed questions. Twelve years since the last album? Yes, a long time, but it's just so hard for us to line up our schedules, they take turns explaining. They wanted to make sure the album could stand the test of time, so they shelved it in Dolly's closet for five years and let it age, quips Harris. What about tour plans? Ronstadt says she's semi-retired, but they all just might crash in on each other's shows from time to time -- probably Emmylou's, since she's the one always touring. Ronstadt discusses how she doubted her ability to sing lead on the new album's Carter Family cover, "Lover's Return," certain that she wouldn't be able to do it as good as Dolly would. "Dollywood?" interjects Parton, beaming. "Gotta get a plug in there!" They discuss their outfits. The cowgirl digs from the first album's cover and videos are clearly a thing of the past, as Ronstadt today wears a long, conservative burgundy dress and Harris a light blue sweater and purple dress that has earned her the nick-name "Tinky Winky," after the recently outed Teletubbie. Parton, who once described her famous look as a mix of Mother Goose, Cinderella and the local hooker, looks the part in a tiny red leather jacket, short black dress and platinum blonde wig up to there. "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap," she punchlines at the end of one particularly winning "y'all buy our album, please" pitch.

"And we're clear!" announces the director. All at once, the women, ravenous for lack of a lunch break, dive for the chips and pretzels on the table. A slice of pizza with a tiny bite missing is brought to Emmylou for her to take a second nibble, after which it is whisked away and a makeup assistant hurries to fix her lipstick. They are queried off camera about their upcoming projects now that the week-long promotional blitz for Trio II is nearing its end. Harris and Ronstadt have recently completed a duet album, which Harris describes as a much more contemporary sounding affair than the traditionally minded Trio project. Ronstadt is also producing an album on Sony Classical for glass armonica player Dennis James, whose ethereal playing haunts the album version of "After the Gold Rush." Parton, who recently released a critically acclaimed, back-to-basics solo album, Hungry Again, before her label Decca folded last month, is gearing up for another season at her theme park and a fresh round of TV movies.

All well and good, of course, but it only leads to the $100,000 question: With their differences apparently behind them, is there any desire to threepeat? After all, if a Trio III has even a cowgirl's prayer of being released by say, 2012, hadn't they better get crackin' at it?

Not surprisingly, there are no promises. But there are no denials, either. Nobody ever expected Trio II to see the light of day, so the notion of a third go-round, possibly when the women are in their sixties or even seventies, is bandied about like a playful challenge rather than dismissed outright. "The voice," remarks Harris, "is the last thing to go. The voice and the legs."

"The Trio just has its own sound," says Parton to nods of agreement from the others. "And no matter what else we do in the future, we could pick up where we leave this one, and still hopefully have this same feeling again."