Not since the late Bobby Darin has there been a talent as protean as Dolly Parton: She's straddled both the Top 40 pop and country music charts; she's mainlined Vegas glitz into bluegrass; and she's found time to sing with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, act in Hollywood movies, and open Dollywood, her very own theme park. In recent years, she's fully embraced the trad bluegrass sound while maintaining her flamboyant persona, on which Parton has been quoted, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."
Live and Well works both as a career retrospective and as an affirmation of her new direction. The pop-crossover hits are here in live form -- "9 to 5," "I Will Always Love You," and -- tossing us a curve ball -- a remarkable a cappella medley including "Here You Come Again." Throughout, Parton is as impish and energized as a triple espresso, but when she gets down, that distinctive vibrato can inspire chills. -- Mark Keresman
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