Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eternal Uplift

I interviewed Brendon Massei, aka Viking Moses, not too long ago. We talked about, among other things, the saint-like genius of Dolly Parton. The Viking Moses cover of “I Will Always Love You” is a beautiful profound and skeletal thing, like he turned a Whitman’s sampler into a piece of Shaker furniture. Going back and looking through the Driftwood archives here, I’m shocked, and a little embarrassed that we’ve not featured Dolly here. I was telling Massei about “For the Love of Dolly,” a fascinating documentary about 5 super Dolly Parton fans. The film captures both the unrealistic devotion of some of Parton’s biggest admirers – a couple of whom are mentally and emotionally impaired in one way or another -- but also Dolly’s surprising humanity in dealing with must at times be creepy levels of fan obsession. I remember when they re-issued a handful of deluxe editions of classic Dolly a few years back – Jolene, My Tennessee Mountain Home, Coat of Many Colors and others – reading up on her, one was struck by how many hundreds of songs she’d written, including dozens of hits and great tunes. It’s easy to forget that Dolly is on par with Willie and Merle – don’t try to give me any attitude about that because I won’t hear it – because one gets blinded by the boobs and rhinestones. I just got a re-issue of 9 to5 recently. It’s a record I’d not listened to much, but there are gems. One thing about Dolly that always perplexed me was the way that some of her songs seem to evoke the melodies of other classic tunes – “Jolene,” for instance, always reminds me of Dylan’s “Wedding Song” off of Planet Waves, and with someone like Dylan, you never know who got where first (both came out in 1974) – and I’ve never known if she was soaking up other people’s tunes or vice versa. Don’t really care, I guess. These two tracks are mysterious. “Working Girl” reminds me of one of those weird Neil Young cromag disco/Kraftwork tunes, the plodding eighth notes in the verse with clipped vocals, the slightly out of place wailing guitar mini-riffs, and the general country template. I love the themes of uplift, the of-the-people vibe, the return to constant love. “You Know That I Love You” sounds like Brian Adams and Mutt Lang might have stewed in its juices (gross, I know) for a while.

“Working Girl” - Dolly Parton

You Know That I Love You” -Dolly Parton

“Jonas Boys” – Viking Moses


Frankie Lee said...

I concur. She's a great songwriter--she doesn't get the respect she deserves.

Lefty said...

60 Minutes just did a pretty great little piece on her, by Morley Safer. Check it out.