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Toby Keith, Darryl Worley, the Dixie Chicks -- pretty much everyone with a microphone has an opinion about the troubles in the world today. Dolly Parton does, too -- but don't expect her to tell you what it is.
"I won't give it," she declares. "Nobody loves war. My opinion is, I just pray for everybody to be blessed."
Nonetheless, global turmoil was a subject much on Dolly's mind recently as she kicked off the 18th season of her East Tennessee theme park, Dollywood. One of the season's first events was the multicultural "Festival of Nations," featuring performers from around the world.
"This is a very good time to try to bring people together," she acknowledges. "It's just a shame that we can't all be happy and enjoy each other's lifestyles and foods and dance and music. But maybe there'll come a time, whether in this lifetime or another one, that we can all live together in peace."
Until that day comes, Dolly deals with her concerns about the world in her own way. "It affects me in the same way it affects everybody, I would think," she says. "It makes one worry, it makes one fret, it makes one grieve, it makes your heart heavy. It makes me want to write songs."
And that's exactly what she's been doing. For her planned follow-up to last year's critically hailed Halos & Horns CD -- and the new hits collection, Ultimate Dolly Parton -- you can expect to hear tunes with some universal themes. "I've been writing a lot of spiritual songs, a lot of patriotic songs, songs about family, songs about mothers and wives and children missing their fathers and mothers that have gone off," reveals Dolly.
"It's opened my heart up in such a way that I just feel so many things. And being a writer and a person that loves to express myself, that's how I am dealing with it -- trying to write the feelings for people that maybe don't know how to say it, but would love to have it said."
When the time comes to head into the studio and record that next album, Dolly has many paths from which to choose. She's just done three bluegrass-flavored albums in a row, but she's not about to limit herself to that style. "I want to do some more pop albums, I want to do some more country albums, I want to do a gospel album, some children's albums," she says. "I'll always do bluegrass here and there -- but not necessarily just bluegrass albums."
While she sorts out her musical plans, Dolly has just released a new video for Halos & Horns' "I'm Gone," and is planning to make another for the vivid story song "These Old Bones." For the video, the singer will play the part of the elderly psychic whose story she tells in the tune. "I've had old teeth made and I had the makeup where I've really aged where it makes me look really old," she reports gleefully. "And the hair's gray and up in a bun and braids and all, and I've got her clothes all together, so it's gonna be fun. I've had a great time with the whole character."
Another character Dolly is hoping to step into is that of Mae West. She's set to star in a long-planned TV movie about the 1930s movie legend. "I'm ready to go whenever they put it all together," says Dolly. "I've been ready for her for years. So as soon as they're ready, I've got Mae!"
While she's happy to tell Mae's tale, don't expect to see Dolly's own story on the small screen anytime soon, whether in a TV movie or a CMT Inside Fame-style documentary.
"I don't want to do those," she says. "I think they're great, and I love watching other people's, but they just show 'em over and over and over again, and I get so sick of watching it!
"I just don't think people want to see that much Dolly Parton. She makes me want to puke sometimes!"