Dolly delivers a Blue gift for her fans

To read the transcripts of the Sugar Hill interviews with Dolly on The Grass is Blue click here.

By Duane Gordon


Many Dolly Parton fans have eagerly awaited a traditional bluegrass album from country's ultimate diva, and no better time has presented itself than the present resurgence in popularity of the music created and disseminated to the masses by the late Bill Monroe.

The wait has been well worth it, as Dolly has delivered a product with The Grass is Blue which holds its own against any of her previous 61 full-length albums to rise to near the top of the list.

Fresh off the retro-country spin of Hungry Again, Dolly reached back to her roots with the help of some of the genre's top musicians. Aside from the freshness of her voice without all of the pop reverbs and echo she has so often allowed to infiltrate her music, she has surrounded her voice with some of the best pickin' captured on tape in recent years. The Steve Buckingham-produced, 13-track CD hits stores Oct. 26 on Sugar Hill Records and Dolly's own Blue Eye Records with help from the genius of Jerry Douglas on the dobro, Sam Bush on the mandolin and Stuart Duncan on the 100-year-old "Old Red" fiddle, among other top bluegrass artists, plus the stunning vocals of Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and others.

The collection kicks off with the rambunctious "Travellin' Prayer," a Billy Joel tune in which Dolly takes the fast-paced lyrics soaring to pure country heaven backed by a waterfall of fiddle and banjo. A true stand-out track, Dolly makes it sound as if the Piano Man got lost in the Kentucky hills for a few days to turn this one out.

Also impressive is the track taken by a steamrolling "Train, Train," complete with hooting train whistles by Dolly and Co. Realistically, this is the only letdown on the CD, but only because Dolly, excited at her induction ceremony into the Country Music Hall of Fame, gave a much more energetic performance of this number at the CMA Awards. By comparison, this cut only makes the listener enthusiastically slap his leg to the rhythm, while her CMA show would make him jump out of his seat and dance a jig.

The Dolly-penned "Will He Be Waiting" fills the mind with mountain images and the ears with angelic harmonies as she gives a more mature sound to a song she originally cut in 1972 for Touch Your Woman.

Other memorable tracks include the haunting Appalachian ballad "Silver Dagger" as arranged by Dolly, "Steady as the Rain" (far superior to her sister Stella's 1979 version), the creative yet melancholy "The Grass is Blue" (also a Dolly original) and the Louvin Brothers' "Cash on the Barrelhead" as told from a down-and-out female perspective.

The most thrilling selection, however, is "I Am Ready," an a capella gospel number written by her sister Rachel. Even given the superb instrumentation throughout the album, it is utterly refreshing to hear the most powerful musical instrument of all, the human voice, shine without assistance. Dolly's is one of the purest which may be captured for the pleasure of the listener, and it simply shines here with the assistance of Rhonda Vincent, Darrin Vincent and Louis Nunley providing harmony.

The Grass is Blue is enough to turn even die-hard rockers into bluegrass fans.