This has already made the rounds, gone viral, been seen by the world and probably all of you, but I cannot get enough of it.
I love Dolly Parton. I have for ages and ages and ages and ages. But she frustrates me. Or, rather, her schtick can frustrate me.
Dolly has spent years crafting a persona--this larger than life image that is the consummate entertainer and performer who makes such an indelible impression on people. I, and millions of other people, adore it. And her. It's certainly played a large part in her popularity over the years and kept her relevant in a country music industry that has become increasingly image-obssessed.
But Dolly the performer, the persona, the image can get in the way of Dolly the artist. Dolly the musician with the beautiful voice. Dolly the gifted songwriter. Emmylou Harris wrote about this in the liner notes to a Dolly tribute album a decade or so ago. She expressed the wish that more people knew the sides of Dolly that she has known for years.
Get a copy of her first album, Just Because I'm a Woman. It is mind-blowingly awesome--full of layers of emotion and beauty and honesty that you don't always feel from the persona. Then check out any of her bluegrass albums from the 2000's where she's striped down, acoustic, and pure feeling, like the best bluegrass should be. Finally, get her original greatest hits album, if you can find it and revel in all of her classics the way they were originally recorded.
Which brings me to this video. "Jolene" is one of Dolly's best songs, but it's never better than the way it was originally written to be sung--stripped down and raw. This version is the purest and cleanest I've heard in years. The original is marked by a plaintive acoustic guitar line that runs through the song. I've always felt that Dolly's best songs layer in a lot of folk music influences among the country touches. That's "Jolene" in a nutshell.
By going acapella here, they've restored that original feeling to the song. I love that Dolly plays with the song in concert--changing "Jolene" to "drag queens" to acknowledge her cross-dressing fans--but this is a song about heartache, yearning and hurt. You cannot listen to this recording and not feel your heart-breaking for her. This is pain and inadequacy and fear. There's nothing polished and slick about that. That little whisper at the end just nails it. "Oh. Jolene." How can you not cry for this woman?
The other thing that comes out here is what a great harmony singer she is. Honestly, that should be no secret, especially after the Trio albums. I love to hear her sing with others. And the look on everyone's faces is awesome--a mix of the sheer joy of performing good music and being awestruck over singing a classic with a legend. How cool is it that Dolly swaps out her lead vocals for the climactic last verse? Amazing.
Okay. I just rambled on and on about a video that is less than three minutes. I've always told you all that I can overthink and over-analyze anything. That's why I blog.
I like it when Dolly entertains me, but I love it when she moves me.
I'm going to have another listen. Or three.
Who else thought the bald guy was wearing a bathrobe at first glance?