- 17 Nov 23
Country legend’s 49th album sees her embrace inner rock chick. 7/10
It may seem strange for any artist to release their first rock record at the age of 77, but when the septuagenarian in question is country legend Dolly Parton, the rulebook has been defenestrated long ago. The queen of country ropes in a veritable who’s who from the rock world for a 30-track collection of mostly covers.
Thus Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr join her on ‘Let It Be’, alongside Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood (Frampton also appears on a new take on his soft-rock classic ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’); Sting duets on ‘Every Breath You Take’; Debbie Harry appears on ‘Heart Of Glass’; John Fogerty helps out on Creedence’s ‘Long As I Can See The Light’, which already leant a little towards Nashville; and Stevie Nicks duets on ‘What Has Rock ‘n’ Roll Ever Done For You?’
For the most part, this is classic rock of the ‘70s/’80s variety, although Dolly does include some younger performers, with Miley Cyrus joining the queen of country on ‘Wrecking Ball’, and Pink and Brandi Carlile helping her out on the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’.
Sometimes it’s wonderful, with Parton managing to wring every ounce of emotion from the likes of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Up?’, Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’ and REO Speedwagon’s ‘Keep On Loving You’. She also delivers a respectable, gospel-inspired take on Prince’s epic ‘Purple Rain’, even if the guitar solo goes on for about three weeks. Her bittersweet version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ starts out lovely, but by the time it crosses the 10-minute mark, it feels as dragged-out as a Marvel film franchise.
There’s cheese aplenty, as Dolly trades one-liners with her fellow vocalists, and I’d also question the need for another version of Elton’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ or ‘We Are The Champions’, the latter segueing rather pointlessly into the coda from ‘We Will Rock You’.
Musically, it’s incredibly accomplished, as some of the finest classic rockers of the last half-century dust off their instruments and tonsils. The end result is good fun, but whether it adds anything beyond curiosity value to either to the rock genre or Dolly’s own repertoire is debatable. But then, not every album has to say something profound; sometimes all you need is three chords and a bit of attitude.