My mistakes are no worse than yours: Best of Dolly Parton

To mention that Dolly Parton’s visibility and reputation got a lift when the White Stripes covered “Jolene” is a reminder of the subtler forms of sexism extant in the biz. No doubt this savviest of entrepreneurs appreciated the royalties. And there’s no doubt the wider audience, insofar as one exists in our atomized era, has remembered her as entrepreneur and cultural figure far longer than her brief period as Nashville’s best singer and songwriter; she was the actress in 9 to 5 and, egads, Steel Magnolias, period. The Grass is Blue and The Essential Dolly Parton changed my own mind — I can still link to my 2005 conversation with Thomas Inskeep published in Stylus because it records a moment when Parton, as exotic to my ears as Thomas Mapfumo, was confounding me.

A decade later she confounds me less than she leaves me breathless: these are tough songs about erotic abandon, tender songs about growing up so poor that she saw Biblical parallels in the rough-hewn coat that her mother gave her, and erotic songs about jealousy. She still writes songs by the wheelbarrow, so I don’t doubt she has a couple albums in her begging for the treatment that White lavished on Loretta Lynn in 2004. She still covers unexpected songs — check out Backwoods Barbie‘s version of “She Drives Me Crazy.” And she’s a savvy entrepreneur, recall. I doubt she needs a Jack White after all.

1. Touch Your Woman
2. Just Because I’m a Woman
3. Jolene
4. My Blue Tears
5. The Bargain Store
6. Here You Come Again
7. Joshua
8. Baby I’m Burnin’
9. Silver Dagger
10. The Seeker
11. My Tennessee Mountain Home
12. Two Doors Down
13. The Mystery of the Mystery
14. Traveling Man
15. Love is Like a Butterfly
16. 9 to 5
17. If I Don’t Lose My Mind
18. Save the Last Dance For Me
19. Hungry Again
20. It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right
21. Coat of Many Colors
22. Eagle When She Flies
23. Little Sparrow
24. We Used To
25. To Know Him is to Love Him (with Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris)

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