Halos and Horns – Dolly Parton
Sugar Hill Records 1589139462
How did Dolly Parton end up on a site that caters to the jamband world?
I'm not exactly sure how, other than the fact that the release was brought
my attention by my editor and the thought of giving a serious listen to
Parton's work seemed worth a shot.
Besides, she does have some connections to the scene. John Popper (Blues
Traveler) and David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) contributed to her 1996 release,
Duets, and her work does emanate from the Appalachian Mountains
Such sounds infiltrate the music of a number of jamband artists that bring
in bluegrass and country flavors in their jamgrass/newgrass/whatevergrass
The publicity blitz for this release doesn't focus on it being Parton's
latest release in what has been viewed as a creative resurgence. Instead,
the usual knowledge of this album rests on her cover of Led Zeppelin's
"Stairway to Heaven". In the past, she's covered other surprising classics
such as Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush".
Rather than keep up with Led Zep's Robert Plant moan for moan, Parton
dresses the number up, with a few choice changes of lyrics as well, into a
midtempo bluegrass number that brings the listeners away from the J.R.R.
Tolkien references and towards making it up the mountain to salvation. And
damn if it doesn't work on this level.
Like the album title, Halos and Horns is filled with the actions of
saints and sinners. A couple were influenced by the tragic events of
("Dear God"), while others give the impression of dealing with the new
realities of life and its affect on the spirituality of one's life. But,
not all seriousness and sadness. Parton knows that life is meant to be fun
Throughout its 14 tracks, the songs are aided by her sweet voice, 'Aw,
shucks' personality and thoughtfulness. With so much of what comes out of
Nashville rendered homogenized by using the same safe approach as the rest
the music industry, Parton offers something – with the support of her
non-major label Sugar Hill records – that takes some creative chances that
even be appreciated by those within the jamband scene.