Little Sparrow (Sugar Hill)

Dolly parton album review feb 23rd

She's been a country-folk storyteller with "Coat Of Many Colors" and a pop-crossover princess with "Islands In The Stream." Now she's a bluegrass belter, and no one belts it better. After the success of The Grass Is Blue, Dolly's 1999 bluegrass album, her latest CD is a collection of bluegrass tunes, mountain songs and unlikely covers.

As might be expected, its most moving songs are Parton-penned. The nearly seven-minute long "Mountain Angel" is a dark tale of the destruction of an innocent mountain girl at the hands of a "wicked handsome stranger." A song Dolly wrote 30 years ago, "Down From Dover," is a powerful, tear-rendering first-person narrative of a pregnant woman foolishly waiting for the never-returning father of her child.

"Bluer Pastures," "My Blue Tears" and the title song are also cut-to-the-heart compositions. "Marry Me" is a rollicking, banjo-driven tune that brings a smile with lines like He's done kissed me on the mouth, and he's gonna marry me.

The musicians and supporting voices on Little Sparrow are nothing less than spectacular. Dolly's special guests include such bluegrass all-stars as Alison Krauss, Carl Jackson, Jerry Douglas, Sonya Isaacs and Rhonda Vincent.

As for the cover songs, one might raise an eyebrow at Dolly pulling out the 1994 Collective Soul rocker "Shine." But she truly makes it her own and gives it a more heavenly hue. And the Eagles' classic "Seven Bridges Road" soars with the help of Isaacs and Jackson.

Gliding through these songs with the ease of the sparrow in the title, Dolly's seasoned voice is better than ever. It alights on every emotion with precision and grace. Whether she's capturing your heart with the Cole Porter standard "I Get A Kick Out Of You" or breaking it with the 1988 Restless Heart hit "A Tender Lie," you won't fall out of love with Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow.

-- Wendy Newcomer

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