The Winter 2000 issue of Country Music Magazine is just chock full of Dolly. First, there's a small photo of her an Lee Ann Womack on the table of contents page and a full-page shot of the two by Raeanne Rubenstein in a section pairing country legends with newcomers. In The Journal section, there's a collection of costumes from the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, and one of those pictured and described is a Dolly costume from the late '70s and early 80s.
Later, there's this review of The Grass is Blue by Craig Havighurst which gives it five out of five stars, or "excellent," the only five-star album reviewed in the issue:
Dolly Parton's latest CD arrived the same week she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, stealing the show at the CMA awards in the process with her lighting-bolt personality, gratitude and a powerful version of "Train, Train" off the new record. It was difficult not to suspect that the promising project would be undermined by some force of showbusiness, some dumb production decision, or some stab at cuteness. But fortunately, not only is this a Dolly Parton classic, it's one of the best bluegrass albums of the 1990s, a beacon for younger artists and fans and a keepsake for anyone who loves American music.
Not strictly traditional, it lets today's best instrumentalists explore wide-ranging musical territory on songs old and new. Fiddler Stuart Duncan, dobroist Jerry Douglas, mandolinist Sam Bush, bass player Barry Bales and banjo man Jim Mills play it clean and modern, but they never leave their tradition behind, and they never overwhelm Dolly's robust, nuanced and joyful voice.
The young Bryan Sutton, recently of Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder band, turns in a spectacular performance on guitar, and a host of golden voices (Patty Loveless, Dan Tyminski, Alison Krauss and others) take turns on lovely harmony vocals.
Parton's own singing, steeped in her Tennessee mountain girlhood and refined by three decades in Nashville, is ultimately responsible for the magnitude of this project. Her rigorous attention to craft and articulation, deep blues sensibility and emotional range have few matches anywhere in country or popular music. And as if to prove how versatile bluegrass can be as a showcase for great singing, she chooses a gutsy mix of standards, originals and covers.
Parton has been singing fellow Hall inductee Johnny Bond's "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" since her youth, and it couldn't sound more lush or comfortable. But who'd have thought Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer" would work so well as a hardcore bluegrass tune? The old folk tune "Silver Dagger" is given an impressionistic treatment with a spooky, lovely melody that hangs over a fascinating and original banjo line. And Parton has obvious fun with the Flatt and Scruggs classic "I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open," and the Louvin Brothers' "Cash on the Barrelhead."
Finally, Parton, who wishes to be remembered in the end as a songwriter, turns in four beauties here. Two, including the heartbreaking title track, are new for this album. But the stunner is the remake of "Will He Be Waiting for Me," a song that poses its plaintive question through a breathtakingly original bluegrass melody and song form. It would have been enough of a treat for Parton to record a standard bluegrass throw-back album. By pushing the form so sympathetically, she further solidifies her greatness.
Finally, there is the following interview with Robert K. Oermann in the magazine's "Trailblazers" section:
Thirty-five years after moving to Nashville, Dolly Parton remains as refreshing and innovative as most acts half her age
As usual, Dolly Parton is a whirlwind of creative activity. At the age of 54, Parton is reinventing herself again with a sparkling new bluegrass album. The Grass is Blue finds Parton drawing on her Appalachian heritage in a fresh, yet staunchly traditional, manner. This move follow's 1998's Hungry Again, a similarly gutsy gamble she recorded with young alternative-country musicians.
Parton's lovely Trio II album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt became a surprise sales success of 1999, even without radio airplay. She starred in Blue Valley Songbird, a Lifetime network movie based on a song she recorded for the Hungry Again album. And, as Parton became a 1999 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, she continued to push beyond artistic borders by joining outrageous pop star Boy George on a disco recording. She's also developing a gospel musical, Heavens to Betsy, and keeps a guiding hand over her Dollywood theme park, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the United States.
And, as always, she greets each interview with fresh quips and a ready wit.
CM: There's a line in "Blue Valley Songbird" that goes, "She's a little bit crazy." Are you?
DP: I think that all creative people are a little bit nuts. There's a great line that Waylon Jennings sings: "I've always been crazy, but it's kept me from going insane." That's one of the greatest lines, and so true. I'm totally nuts, but in a good way, because I have fun.
And I think I'm a strange person in that I enjoy my own company. I'm so crazy I'm entertained by it, if that makes any sense. I think, Oh my Lord, I can't believe you did that. Sometimes I walk away from an interview and go, "I didn't say that, did I?"
CM: Tell me about going into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
DP: When I got the call, it was June. Two of my sisters, Cassie and Rachel, and two of their kids, Hannah and Rebecca, who are 11 and 13, had come out to L.A. They were in the kitchen and I was in my office, which is off the kitchen, when I got the call. I started screaming. They thought somebody was dead or something. They all came running in. So I got to share in the moment with my family. My heart was just overjoyed and overwhelmed.
My first joke was, "I thought I'd have to be as ugly as Porter and as old as Willie Nelson before I'd be put in." I did think, I'm not old enough to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I guess I am. It's like being inducted into sainthood or something. I am in the Hall of Fame with the saints. Me, little Dolly Parton from the Smoky Mountains in there with Hank Williams and all those people who have done so much. It's chilling. It's humbling.
And I'm glad to go in while I'm still young enough, active enough and alive enough that I can enjoy it. I get to see it happen, feel it happen, be a part of it while it's happening.
CM: Your Bluegrass performance was one of the best moments of the telecast.
DP: It's cool to be going into the Hall of Fame and at the same time doing new music. If you think this means I'm done and that this is putting me in a rocking chair, you can forget it. If it does, you can go put wheels on my rockin' chair, 'cause I am gonna rock 'n' roll. With the bluegrass album, I feel like I'm just starting my career.
CM: How did The Grass is Blue come about?
DP: All of my people played fiddles, mandolins, banjos and guitars. We defined our music as "mountain music." The emotion is the same in mountain music and bluegrass. That "high lonesome sound" is just the mourning of the soul, like being part of a high lonesome wind, going deep into the soul and expressing it.
Steve Buckingham, who had produced many of my records, invited me to dinner. He said, "They ran a survey of some sort asking people who they would most like to do a bluegrass album. Do you know what the results were? Dolly Parton, 10 to one." I said, "Well, why don't we just do one then?" Six weeks later we were done with it.
CM: Are you in a good place in your life?
DP: They say wisdom comes with age, and I think peace does as well. I don't have to do anything, so I will not do anything if it doesn't feel right to me. I am willing to work until I fall over, but I don't have to.
I have freedom now. I'm not tied up to a record label. I am managing myself, so I don't have to ask managers. Since I have gotten older and not been played on the radio, I don't have to write to please a disc jockey. I'm not writing to please anybody but myself. If I want to do a bluegrass album, I have the freedom. I've lived long enough to earn it, and I guess I deserve it. I'm gonna claim it whether I deserve it or not!
I feel good and I don't look bad for my age. I look like a cartoon anyway, so what difference does it make? I'm always gonna look like Dolly, like a freak. But I'm the best freak I've ever been. At this time in my life, I'm happy.
CM: Whose plastic surgery is better, yours or Cher's?