Mama’s Choice: Dolly Parton

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 lit with 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

Music City USA News

Music City USA News

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.

Her assets far exceed the common eye.

Swingin’ and Spinnin’,

Gabe

Here’s a clip of Dolly performing Joshua from the 1970’s.

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