Backwoods Barbie

Dolly Parton

Dolly Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


When I think of Dolly Parton, one feature comes to mind: her assets. Yes, Dollywood, Dolly’s Dixie Stampede, Sandollar Productions, and her Imagination Library (Where did you think I was going? Get your minds out of the gutter, people!).

Let the record state that I honestly couldn’t name you a Parton tune outside of “9 To 5” and her cover of “Stairway To Heaven” a few years ago. Yet when her latest album Backwoods Barbie arrived on the scene earlier this year, something called to me, and lo and behold, Dolly Parton arrived on the iPod.

The usual media sources have apparently heralded this album as a return to form for Miss Parton, a reclaiming of good ol’ fashioned country music after a few detours into bluegrass. Whether or not Parton steps back in time is a matter for those who actually know her discography; for this humble reviewer, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Backwoods Barbie represents a solid, modern country album from an old pro.

One should not expect to hear a knockout, dynamic vocal track from Dolly Parton; that much I knew beforehand. But what she lacks in range and dynamics is more than made up for in personality; it oozes from every pore of this album. Parton infuses the music with the sense that this album was powered entirely by her own efforts. That bubbly, attractive character known so well is represented here in full, and to great effectiveness.

That being said, the focus on herself does get out of hand at various points. The title track is weighed down by too many country clichés. Dolly, listen, if you’re going to ask people to look deeper than the surface layers, that money spent for a tuck there or a lift here cheapens the message. Also, informing us that yes, you are not the Dalai Llama is a tad unnecessary (and if it’s a pun, then so much the worse…).

But those little gripes aside, the music on Backwoods Barbie is solid. Good, but not great, which is more than what I had expected. The opening track “Better Get To Livin’” is a remarkably apt attempt to break into the top ten attempts; it’s obvious that Miss Parton understands what makes a hit country song these days. “Jesus And Gravity” delivers a mighty blow with an incredibly suitable backing vocal from a Gospel Choir that takes the song to a higher place.

Sure, “Drive Me Crazy” finds Parton and co. throwing everything in the country music kitchen sink to make it work, but guess what? It does. “Only Dreamin’” struck a chord, too, reminding me of Robert Plant and Allison Karuss on Raising Sand. If this is what Parton’s past few albums sounded like during her bluegrass phase, then color me intrigued.

How well Backwoods Barbie does on the country charts is irrelevant at this point; it would seem that Parton wanted to make a point more than anything else with this record. Again, this is not a stunning, genre changing piece of work, but it was not intended to be. For an old pro, it more than meets the bar.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dolly Records, and is used for informational purposes only.