Thursday, January 19, 2012

Regarding the Dolly Parton concert in Hollywood

[Editor's note] I just realized that I never typed up anything about seeing Dolly Parton. I can think of no better occasion than her 66th birthday (and her new film!) to right this wrong.

There are very few performers who have shined as brightly as Dolly Parton. As the charming and adorable country Diva, she wriggled into the cockles of my heart long ago. My memories of Dolly Parton stretch back as far as my childhood. I used to pretend that my mom (who in the 90s looked a lot like her) was Truvy cutting my hair.

Well I was given the rare opportunity of seeing this film and music legend in October for my birthday.

Clad in a hot-pink dress and then a canary-yellow jumper with shorts, Dolly Parton sparkled both from the inside and the outside.

From the very beginning, Dolly was chatty with us. Before each song, she would relate some words of wisdom or a personal story. Of her iconic hit "Jolene", she said that the song was based on truth. When she and her husband were first married and poor, he spent a lot of time at the bank. She joked, "He was looking more for interest, because he had no principle." She closed the intro by saying that when she sees him passed out and drooling she yells, "Jolene, where are you girl?"

After playing some of her my favorites, she took us back in time to her days growing up in Tennessee. With "Tennessee Mountain Home," she talked about having 12 siblings, calling her parents "horny hillbillies." An a cappella version of "Precious Memories" was touching, and when she dedicated "Coat of Many Colors" to her mom and "Appalachian Memories" to her father, I cried like a M'Lynn.

She also covered a few songs, including the Beatles "Help," Collective Soul's "Shine," and a bluegrass version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". This was perhaps one of my favorite numbers of the night. It was a reinterpretation of a classic song that worked so breath-takingly well for her. Dolly also did a terrifically fun cover of Tina Turner's "Deep River, Mountain High."

Dolly sang some songs off of her newest album, Better Day, too.

Though she had a full band and three backup singers, Dolly brought a variety of instruments with her to play onstage. She played the fiddle, bedazzled guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, recorder, child-sized saxophone (when holding this, she said she was "feeling saxy!"), and even a tiny glittering grand piano. There was even a girl-against-boys dueling banjos with members of her band, which she jokingly called the Saggy Bottom Boys.

And then Dolly Parton rapped.

What started out as potentially the most uncool part of the evening ended in a joke that made the whole thing worth bearing. Dolly and Queen Latifah appear together in the gospel musical called Joyful Noise. The rap was aimed at talking about her costar. Said Dolly of Queen Latifah: "You may be the Queen, but I'm the white trash princess!" She closed by acknowledging that "country mixed with rap is crap!"

As I've mentioned before, I hate going to concerts and not knowing the lyrics to songs. But at the Dolly concert, I didn't mind so much during a particular song. Her haunting and almost spooky version of "Little Sparrow" was incredible.

In short, Dolly Parton remains a singularly delightful musical presence. One that I will not soon forget.

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