Dolly Parton: Backwoods Barbie

At 62 years old, Dolly Parton is beyond legendary proportions. Don't laugh — in fact, say what you want about her appearance, chances are she's already beaten you to the punch. Parton's latest effort, Backwoods Barbie, is as self-aware as it is rife with her salt-of-the-earth sensibility. The poignant "Only Dreamin'" and sassy "Shinola" tap into Parton's innate knack for songwriting as she warbles sentiments sung time and again, yet somehow manages to remain fully herself. "I'm just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair," she sings with characteristic humor and honesty on the title track. "Don't let these false eyelashes lead you to believe that I'm as shallow as I look." Continuing the oddball covers tradition of her recent bluegrass albums ("Stairway to Heaven," Collective Soul's "Shine"), here Parton chooses "Drives Me Crazy," otherwise known as Fine Young Cannibals' 1989 hit "She Drives Me Crazy," and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' 1965 classic "Tracks of My Tears." Here and elsewhere, Parton's vocals have astonishingly retained virtually all the youthful luster of her "Coat of Many Colors" days. At its worst, Backwoods Barbie is mere fun; at its best, it's a keen insight into the heart of a country-music icon.

 
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