Artist: Dolly Parton
Label: Butterfly Records LLC, under license to Big Machine Label Group LLC
So the new Dolly Parton rock album, Rockstar, kinda owns? I am so glad that Dolly Parton continues to do whatever she wants, and everyone she asks to collaborate with her says yes, because they want to help her do whatever she wants. Rockstar is a 30-track rock album, which, while mostly covers, is really delightful.
There's different ways to interpret Rockstar, depending on how cynical of a person you are. Is she just banging out covers to known rock hits because it's an easy win? Is this whole thing just a tired rehash of times past? Fortunately, I have a Dolly Parton-sized blind spot which allows me to believe that she is earnest in her love of music and being a working artist, and just wants to cover these songs because she loves them. Also, I think a cynical interpretation does these songs dirty. To me, there is a fine line between covering a song because it'll be surefire way to get listens, and covering a song because an artist has an emotional connection to music and music history, and wants to engage with that history in a new way. More often than not, I think the songs on this album hit the latter.
Why do I think that? Well, the expanse of what Dolly Parton considers good rock songs to be covered is enormous, and spans classics like "Free Bird" and "Purple Rain" to more recent hits like "What's Up?" (Four Non Blondes) and "Wrecking Ball" (Miley Cyrus). Most of these covers are also duets with other performers, including Miley Cyrus, Sting, Elton John, and other heavy hitters, all of which come off like delighted collaborations between people happy to be back in the studio reinvisioning their classic songs as something new. I didn't realize that I needed Dolly Parton to cover "Stairway to Heaven" with Lizzo on the flute, but she did, and it turns out that totally rules.
So if you have some free time this week, check out a few songs on this album. It might not be mind-blowing, but I think good, creative covers have a way of tipping the way we think about music on its head. Why are songs good? Why do good songs keep coming back around, and how do we make them our own? What does it mean to keep reinventing rock music in the 21st century? Rockstar doesn't answer these questions, but it certainly keeps the conversation alive.
Sounds Like: Well, it sounds like all your favorite classic rock songs, as covered by Dolly Parton. Exactly what it says on the tin. Do you like rock? Do you like Dolly Parton? Then you'll think this album owns. Do you wish rock music came package with the sound of a sweet old lady who can still sing the house down with a classic twang? Yeah, you'll like this, then.
Stairway to Heaven
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me