Sunday, January 31, 2016

Better Day - Dolly Parton

Better Day
Dolly Parton
Dolly Records 1-528216

Here is a post for Dolly Parton in honor of her recent 70th birthday.  I'm a little mortified that she is already 70 but I'll bet she is fine with it.  Nothing seems to faze her or diminish her indomitable positivity.  I bought this album after seeing Parton during her tour promoting it back in 2011.  I liked the new songs when I heard them in concert and I'm happy to say that the rest of the album is good as well.  Parton wrote all the songs and is in fine form throughout.  The album is appropriately pressed on sunny orange vinyl and is a double album even though it is barely more than 40 minutes long and could have fit on a single album which irks me since it requires getting up to flip the record every 10 minutes.  That aside, I'm very happy with it.  The record opens with "In The Meantime" which introduces the basic theme of the album - uplifted spirits and an optimistic attitude.  It is a "don't worry, be happy" type song which downplays thoughts about the end of the world in favor of exalting our achievements and the good aspects of life.  It is a propulsive country rocker with a typically charismatic vocal from Parton.  "Just Leaving" asks for God's help in leaving a bad situation and looking for a better life.  The song has a strong country flavor driven by a fiddle and a banjo.  Despite the anxiety and unhappiness expressed in the lyrics, it is an upbeat song with a warm, comforting vocal from Parton.  Side one concludes with "Somebody's Missing You" which is a sweet love song.  Parton has always excelled at this type of romantic song.  Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris sing background vocals on the tune which sounds lovely.  It is one of my favorite tracks on the album.  Side two begins with "Together You and I" which is a love song that uses images from nature to celebrate her relationship.  It has a more pop-oriented sound although the fiddle gives it some country flavor.   "Country is as Country Does" was co-written with Mac Davis.  The song is a humorous paean to her country roots and her core country values.  It is a rollicking honky-tonk type song that is very entertaining.  The side ends with "Holding Everything" which is an intensely romantic song that resembles her classic "I Will Always Love You" in the verses.  The chorus is straight pop delivered with plenty of exuberance.  Kent Wells, the album's producer and guitarist, duets with Parton on the song.  It is a bit too pop for my liking but it is well done.  Side three begins with "The Sacrifice" which I think is one of the oddest songs she has ever written.  In it she recalls all the sacrifices she has made in order to be rich and successful.  She compares her sacrifice with Jesus' sacrifice and concludes that it was all worth it.  I admire her drive and determination but I find her reasoning a little dubious.  I don't recall any parts of "The Bible" where Jesus extols the pursuit of riches.  In keeping with the spirit of the lyrics, the music is upbeat and energetic.  "I Just Might" is about recovering from heartbreak and optimistically moving on.  It is a classic country-style ballad with a swelling chorus that derives its strength from Parton's emotional vocal.  The side ends with "Better Day" in which she reassures us that though the present may seem bleak, better days lie ahead.  She recites the first verse before launching into the song which is a mixture of gospel and rhythm and blues in style.  The song shows off her vocal chops and is one of my favorites on the album.  "Shine Like the Sun" is another "there will be a better tomorrow" type song that emphasizes moving forward and escaping the people and things that are bringing you down.  The song is bouncy sunshine pop that reinforces the song's positive outlookIn "Get Out and Stay Out" she kicks out her unworthy lover and moves on for a better life.  The words are surprisingly vindictive and harsh for Parton but true to her good nature, she sings them so sweetly it sounds more like a love song.  I guess she just doesn't have it in her to be completely mean in a song.  In "Let Love Grow" she encourages someone who has been burned by love in the past to give her a chance to show him how good love can be.  The song is slick country-pop but Parton's heartfelt vocal gives the song emotional depth and makes for a stirring conclusion to the album.  I don't think any of these songs can match the quality of her work in the early 1970s but all of them are good making this a consistently satisfying album.  I like its personal quality, it strongly reflects her personal philosophy as well as her dignity and strength.  I've long admired her as an artist and I'm very pleased to see her still making meaningful records full of spirit and vitality so late in her career.  Recommended to people looking for something to cheer them up - if Dolly Parton can't do it, you have some serious blues.

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