To read the transcripts of the Sugar Hill interviews
with Dolly on The Grass is Blue click here.
By Duane Gordon
Many Dolly Parton fans have eagerly awaited a traditional bluegrass album
from country's ultimate diva, and no better time has presented itself than the
present resurgence in popularity of the music created and disseminated to the
masses by the late Bill Monroe.
The wait has been well worth it, as Dolly has delivered a product with The
Grass is Blue which holds its own against any of her previous 61 full-length
albums to rise to near the top of the list.
Fresh off the retro-country spin of Hungry Again, Dolly reached back
to her roots with the help of some of the genre's top musicians. Aside from the
freshness of her voice without all of the pop reverbs and echo she has so often
allowed to infiltrate her music, she has surrounded her voice with some of the
best pickin' captured on tape in recent years. The Steve Buckingham-produced,
13-track CD hits stores Oct. 26 on Sugar Hill Records and Dolly's own Blue Eye
Records with help from the
genius of Jerry Douglas on the dobro, Sam Bush on the mandolin and Stuart Duncan
on the 100-year-old "Old Red" fiddle, among other top bluegrass artists, plus
the stunning vocals of Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and others.
The collection kicks off with the rambunctious "Travellin' Prayer," a Billy
Joel tune in which Dolly takes the fast-paced lyrics soaring to pure country
heaven backed by a waterfall of fiddle and banjo. A true stand-out track, Dolly
makes it sound as if the Piano Man got lost in the Kentucky hills for a few days
to turn this one out.
Also impressive is the track taken by a steamrolling "Train, Train," complete
with hooting train whistles by Dolly and Co. Realistically, this is the only
letdown on the CD, but only because Dolly, excited at her induction ceremony
into the Country Music Hall of Fame, gave a much more energetic performance of
this number at the CMA Awards. By comparison, this cut only makes the listener
enthusiastically slap his leg to the rhythm, while her CMA show would make him
jump out of his seat and dance a jig.
The Dolly-penned "Will He Be Waiting" fills the mind with mountain images and
the ears with angelic harmonies as she gives a more mature sound to a song she
originally cut in 1972 for Touch Your Woman.
Other memorable tracks include the haunting Appalachian ballad "Silver
Dagger" as arranged by Dolly, "Steady as the Rain" (far superior to her sister
Stella's 1979 version), the creative yet melancholy "The Grass is Blue" (also a
Dolly original) and the Louvin Brothers' "Cash on the Barrelhead" as told from a
down-and-out female perspective.
The most thrilling selection, however, is "I Am Ready," an a capella gospel
number written by her sister Rachel. Even given the superb instrumentation
throughout the album, it is utterly refreshing to hear the most powerful musical
instrument of all, the human voice, shine without assistance. Dolly's is one of
the purest which may be captured for the pleasure of the listener, and it simply
shines here with the assistance of Rhonda Vincent, Darrin Vincent and Louis
Nunley providing harmony.
The Grass is Blue is enough to turn even die-hard rockers into