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The Backwoods Barbie Comes to South Florida


Something About Dolly

One Man’s Appreciation for All Things Parton

--John Hood

When I first got word that Dolly Parton would be coming to South Florida I got giddy; then I got on the phone. I called my editor. I called her publicist. I called my mom. If Dolly was coming down I was not only gonna be there, I was gonna write about it too.

Then my adamancy really got going. Hell, I thought, if I’m gonna cover Dolly Parton’s show, why not push for an interview as well? My editor thought it was a great idea, so did Dolly’s publicist, she just didn’t know when. She did say it was a go though, so I considered it a done deal. Then, after a couple back flips, and more than a good few minutes of trying to bring my heart back to some sort of normal pace, I cried.

Okay, so I didn’t. But I did get a peculiar tingle inside, the kinda inner buzz the body reserves for something truly amazing. I don’t care who you are, where you come from, or how cool you pretend to be, if you don’t find Dolly Parton to be truly amazing then you, my friend, are without feel.


So it passed. I hit the town with a little more skip to my step. Even my pals noticed a difference in me, and not just because I was deliriously demanding that they listen to me brag about landing an interview with the one and only Dolly Parton either. I was transformed. If the simple prospect of seeing her live on stage got me all aflutter, imagine what the prospect of actually speaking with her did. I’m talking dizzy to the nth degree, dig? And I don’t go dizzy very often.

Six weeks later I’m still waiting for her call. Oh, I’ve been assured that it’ll still happen, just not by the time I’ve gotta meet my deadline. Crushed? You better believe it. But I remain ever hopeful, despite myself. See, that’s what Dolly does to a fella, leaves him hopeful beyond all reason. Kinda like sunshine.

As I write this Dolly’s Backwood’s Barbie is playing on my laptop. Right now the disc happens to be in the middle of Fine Young Cannibals’ hit “(She) Drives Me Crazy.” Unlike the original, Dolly’s version has a little more hop to it, especially at the end when it vamps to a fast bluegrass shuffle. It also has a fiddle, something the writers of the song probably never imagined, but should be thankful for nonetheless. ‘Cause this isn’t just any fiddler raising the roof here, it’s Dolly’s fiddler. And that means a whole sight more than most people dare even consider.

But if Dolly’s latest longplayer gets under some covers (there’s also a country-tinged rendition of Smokey Robinson’s miraculous “Tracks of My Tears”), it is her originals which still are the most revealing. Take for instance the first single, “Jesus & Gravity,” a rousing and devout affirmation of faith if ever there was one. But the song is more than a mere proselytizing push for the Son of Man. Rather, as the second part of the title suggests, it’s a testament to what it means to remain rooted in a time of rootlessness, grounded as the very earth shifts beneath your feat. And if it takes a firm foundation for her to keep a hold of heaven, who am I to argue?

If “Jesus” is the anthem, then “The Lonesomes” shows that the lady knows about a whole lot more than church. A playful, honky-tonk of a song which wouldn’t be outta place on Tom Waits’ play list, it cites Hank Williams and harkens back to something Hoagy Carmichael might’ve swung had “Hong King Blues” been set for Nashville instead of the Orient.

The rest of album is of a piece, which is to say that if you didn’t dig Dolly before, you probably won’t dig her now. And that would be your loss. Then again if you’ve not yet fallen prey to her charms, you’re already lost.

I won’t go into the details of Dolly’s four decades-old career, the 26 #1 singles, the 42 Top Ten Country albums, the Golden Globe nominations she received for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and 9 to 5, or the Oscar she got for the latter’s same-named title song. I won’t delve into why her “Jolene” is a pure pop masterpiece, or how “I Will Always Love You” sold more copies than almost any other single ever written. You know all that. And since you do, you’ll undoubtedly be up at Mizner come Friday night singing right along, with me, and with Dolly.

Now if only Dolly would call…

Dolly Parton performs on Friday, October 17 at the Mizner Park Amphitheatre, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets run from $38-$98.

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John Hood

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