ALBUM REVIEW: Dolly Parton, Joshua

Recently, I was at a loss on who to review next. It seems the blog has touched on many different genres and vinyl topics. So I turned to my mom for inspiration. Mamas are always right, aren’t they?

NPR
NPR

At first she had no suggestion since I had already reviewed Lionel Richie, her favorite artist. She’s a big fan of soul music and I have touched on that quite a bit. You see, this is what she raised me on, with the occasional Barry Manilow.

Then all of a sudden, as if the heavens had opened up and every being on the earth was lit with a glorious splendor, my mom said, “What about Dolly Parton?” Now, this came as quite a surprise for me. I didn’t think my mom liked Ms. Parton, but since I have some of her records, I went with it.

I’ve always had a great admiration for Parton. She has long been one of my favorite country artists. I tend to stick with trailblazers, rather than that country stuff today. Is it even country? After contemplating over my Dolly albums, I decided to review her 1971 release, Joshua.

Union Music Store
Union Music Store

By the time Joshua came out, Parton had already released 6 albums. She was a popular performer and a regular on the Porter Wagoner Show. Although she already possessed these great accolades, she had not had a top country hit. She had many that had reached the top 20 and a top 10 hit, but never a number one. This album changed that, with “Joshua” climbing all the way to the top spot.

When I listen to this album, I feel as if Parton just asks if she can tell you a few stories. Every song possesses the elements of any great novel, just in a short 3-minute form. This album only comes in at 27 minutes and 36 seconds, but this album does not fall short of content.

“Joshua” is one of my favorite Parton songs. It shows her expert writing skills and her genius storytelling talents. She tells the story of an intimidating man named Joshua, yet she didn’t believe he could be that hard, so she went to visit him. In the end, they fell in love and had tons in common. It’s not quite that easy in the song, but just give it a listen. I’m not going to ruin the story for you!

Next, I like “Walls of My Mind.” This is a nice slow ballad that explains the promise of a lover that didn’t come true, but that the promises are still hung on the walls of her mind. Following that is “It Ain’t Fair That It Ain’t Right,” another classic Parton and country tune of love gone wrong.

The last song on Side 1 has to be my second favorite. It talks of a Bonnie and Clyde type relationship, where Parton and her lover robbed banks, etc. Eventually, J.J. Sneed betrayed Parton and she had to shoot him and go on the run. This is like an early Miranda Lambert song.

Side 2 doesn’t lack the drama of Side 1. I especially like “Daddy’s Moonshine Still” and “Letter to Heaven.” “Daddy’s Moonshine Still,” tells the story of her “bootlegging daddy” who dealt moonshine. Her brothers eventually died due to a deal, her mama died from the stress, and then her father died from drinking that stuff.

“Letter to Heaven” is a tearjerker. It talks of a little girl who wanted to write a letter to her Mama in heaven. She asked her grandfather to write the letter for her. He wrote it and gave it to her to mail. And….you must listen to the rest to get the end of the story.

In the end, I feel this album continued to establish Dolly Parton’s career as one to stay and to eventually be the legend she is today. The beginnings of her legendary lyrics are seen in this early recording and only “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors” were to follow.

In a live album, I have of Parton’s she says that it takes a lot of money to look “this cheap.” Dolly may think she looks cheap, but her music is as rich as Midas.

Meeting Royalty in Your Own Backyard

This week I had the pleasure of finally meeting her royal rockness, the Queen of Rock’n’Roll, Ms. Wanda Jackson.

Meeting Jackson was a huge honor and it had been a dream of mine as I am sure many of you can tell by my multiple posts. She was IMG_5307gracious and very kind. She held my hand as she told me the story of my favorite song and was amazed to hear that I have all but two of her albums. I told her how her music has touched my life, and that her later gospel recordings helped me through a rough patch in my life. She turned to me and responded, “Well sounds like I’ve been a big part of your life.”

Fun Fact: The jacket she has on in the picture was given to her by Jack White and she wore it in GQ magazine.

So in honor of meeting Jackson and considering her extensive recording career, I have decided to countdown my top 7 favorite albums.

Number 7: I Gotta Sing

This album was released in 1971. Since I’m only limiting myself to two favorite songs per album, I would have to say my choices for this one is her cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and her cover of “Fancy Satin Pillows.” This is a great album that shows the reason for Jackson’s longevity.

Number 6: Praise the Lord

Amazon.com
Amazon.com

I am a sucker for country gospel, and this album doesn’t disappoint this musical facade. Released in 1973, my two favorite songs off this album are “How Great Thou Art” and “Am I Not My Brother’s Keeper.” The liner notes for this album are interesting due to the fact her then pastor, Rev. Paul Slayer of South Lindsey Baptist Church in OKC, wrote them.

Number 5: Unfinished Business

This album is her latest and was released in 2012. My two favorites from this album is “Am I Even a Memory” and “California Stars.” This album was produced by Justin Townes Earle and he duets with her on “Memory.” This album shows that Jackson is still on top of her game.

Number 4:  The Many Moods of Wanda Jackson

This album has great covers that spread across a wide array of topics. “Fever” and “If I Had a Hammer” stand out for me. This album was released in 1968 and is a must-have for any Jackson Fan.

Number 3: Right or Wrong7 Digital

This album shows Jackson’s soft and rock style in full 50’s form. The first side, properly entitled “The Sensitive Side” on the liner notes contains my first favorite, “Right or Wrong.” Jackson originally wrote this song for Brenda Lee, but she said she already had more hits than her, so she was going to keep it. My second favorite from “The Rockin Side” is “Who Shot Sam.” This album solidified Jackson in the recording industry as one here for the stayin’.

Number 2: The Party Ain’t Over

Mary's signed copy of "The Party Ain't Over."
Mary’s signed copy of “The Party Ain’t Over.”

Every Jackson fan was elated when this album was released. It came out in 2011 and was produced by the great Jack White. To be honest, every song on this album is a favorite and narrowing it down to two is tough. I would have to say her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on The Mountain” is top and then “Dust on the Bible.” Then there are also two really great songs, the late Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m no Good” and “Busted.” Then there’s “Blue Yodel #6.” Just buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Number 1: Rockin’ with Wanda

LastFM.com
LastFM.com

This album defined women in Rock’N’Roll. This album is pure rockabilly, but with a twist, only a woman could handle. “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad” and “Fujiyama Mama” are barely the surface of this landmark album. “Hot Dog” was one of the first songs I heard of Jackson’s. To me, this is the album that set everything into place for Jackson’s career establishing women in Rock’N’Roll and the definition of a genre.

These brief summaries barely describe these albums or touch on Jackson’s legacy. There are many more outstanding albums in her catalog. I’m still reeling from the fact that I was able to meet her. I no longer have to keep my album covers in the back of my car just in case I run into her at the Wal-Mart.