Country music icon, Dolly Parton, released her latest album Blue Smoke this week and, like the title of the album implies, Dolly will set fire to the industry with her newest release. The album contains a dozen tracks that will explain why country music has such a strong presence currently, while also causing you to reminisce about the classics that set the tone for today. Enlisting the help of a couple of old friends, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, Dolly delivers a collection of tracks that proves the staying power of one of country music’s most profound legends of our time.
The album kicks off with the title track, which is a fun take on heartbreak and walking away from a relationship. Let’s be real here — she’s Dolly. Why should she stay with someone who is guilty of cheating and mistreating? Instead, she hops aboard the Blue Smoke (train) and rides off into the sunset. “Blue Smoke” begins the album with a dash of classic Dolly and the servings of songs to follow only continue to please the palette with everything a Dolly fan would crave on an album by one of country music’s finest.
Offerings such as “Home,” “Lay Your Hands on Me,” and “Lover du Jour” represent an upbeat, fun-loving Dolly. Whether she is singing about the comforts of home, the comforts of the Lord, or refusing to allow a man to find comfort in her bed, Dolly’s presentation of each of these tracks is truly magnetic and makes it impossible to skip to the next songs before the final beats. Contrarily, “Unlikely Angel,” “Don’t Think Twice,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “If I Had Wings,” and “Try” are slower and softer in nature and gracefully represent a more emotionally-driven version of Dolly. Ranging from subject matter such as finding solace in an unexpected person, the endings of relationships, the need to move on, and the ability to find the strength to overcome adversity, Dolly beautifully portrays her roles in each song and adequately relays the intended messages of the lyrics.
Highlights of Blue Smoke include the sentimental “Miss You-Miss Me” and duets with fellow country music staples, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. “Miss You-Miss Me” begins with strings that immediately signal what is about to be a four minute poignant event that will be worth anyone’s while. Anyone who has listened to Dolly knows her voice is sweet and light, which is the perfect combination for “Miss You-Miss Me,” which asks listeners to identify with the songstress as the child left behind by her father following her parents’ bitter divorce. In the first verse, Dolly pleads for her father to let her know if he misses her and loves her, while in the second verse, she shifts to ask her mother if she longs for the home life they had when they were still a family. Dolly ultimately wants her parents to let go of resentment and remember they have a child who still needs to be loved, even if their marriage has run its course.
“From Here to the Moon and Back” is a flawless duet with Willie Nelson that tells the tale of a timeless love story and the lengths to which each would go for the other person in the relationship. Each artist’s contribution to this song provides layers and depth to a breathtaking song that is nothing short of pure perfection. “You Can’t Make Old Friends” is a duet with Kenny Rogers, a vocalist with whom Dolly experienced significant success in the past. The premise of this song, which is rather fitting for the two artists whose friendship goes back decades, is that old friends are irreplaceable. The two sing about how, no matter the number of new people who enter your life, nobody compares to the friends who knew you when. Despite the years that have passed, one thing is clear, the dynamic duo of Dolly and Kenny remains as harmonious as ever.
Blue Smoke is an album that will provide long-time Dolly Parton fans with a healthy heaping of classic Dolly from front to back, while allowing newer listeners the opportunity to experience a taste of vintage country music. Seeing the pioneers of the genre return to the forefront with new and notable music has been alluring for this country fan of twenty-one years and provides some much needed variety in an industry that has been straddling the boundaries of pop/rock as of late. With Blue Smoke, Dolly returns to country music in a blaze of glory and one thing is certain – old fans will be reminded why they loved Dolly then and new fans will come out in droves and fall in love with Dolly now.
Don’t Think Twice
You Can’t Make Old Friends
Banks of the Ohio
Lay Your Hands on Me
Miss You-Miss Me
If I Had Wings
Lover du Jour
From Here to the Moon and Back