ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Dolly Parton is back on tour with music from a surprising new album

It's been 10 years since Dolly Parton went on the road. Now, with the release of her new album, Halos & Horns, the country superstar-turned-bluegrass diva is more than ready to go back.

But this time things will be different.

"It'll be simple," reveals Dolly of the 13-city tour across America. "There will be less production and more music. We won't have big lights or big sound or big videos. It's about the music. It's about going out and not having to sing over the electric guitars or the drums. I can just focus on the songs and tell the stories."

Dolly's been telling stories and charting No. 1s for over 30 years. She wrote all but two songs on Halos & Horns - and says she "just knows" when she's written something special.

"You feel it," she explains. "It'll be like a sting or a burn. Or you'll write a line and think, 'Oh this is so good!' I write all the time. I always think of my songs as my kids. Some of them are prettier than others, but you love 'em all the same. "Nothing is ever lost," she continues. "You have to write them all. And I wouldn't know a hit if it jumped up and bit me in the ass! But I know what I like as a writer. I know when I've written something that's going to stand on its own through time. The others come and go."

One song on Halos & Horns has more than stood the test of time. "Not For Me," a heartwrenchingly sad ballad, was actually written in 1964 when Dolly first moved to Nashville. While searching for another song, Dolly stumbled across the forgotten - and never recorded - "Not For Me."

But not everybody liked the forgotten song. "My husband can't stand to hear me sing sad songs," admits Dolly. "I said, 'Well, Dad ... ' - that's what I call him - 'that's so old I don't even know what I was thinking then!' But I'm sure that must have been exactly what I was feeling at the time. I go through many times like that.

"People always think you don't have feelings if you're a star," she adds, "or that you don't get depressed. But I just write whatever I feel. Sometimes when I've been through my saddest or most sorrowful things, I have to write them down. Then I feel better."

Of the two cover songs on Halos & Horns - Bread's pop ballad "If" and Led Zeppelin's classic "Stairway To Heaven" - it's the Zeppelin tune that's raising the most eyebrows. Dolly makes it her own, adding a spiritual element, complete with a choir and ad-libbed lines.

"That's a song I've been meaning to do for years," confesses Dolly, who was inspired by her husband of 36 years, Carl Dean. "He loves hard rock music and bluegrass, and Led Zeppelin is his favorite," she says with a smile. "We love 'Stairway To Heaven.' It's one of our special songs. But I never had a way I could think of doing it until I started doing this bluegrass stuff.

"I knew everybody was expecting me to do something completely off the wall on this record, so I thought, 'It's time to do "Stairway To Heaven." ' I figure I'll get crucified some, but I did it with great respect."

Dolly happily reports that the writers, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, approved. "We didn't hear back from them for a while and I thought that meant they didn't like it," she notes. "But they had not heard it yet. When they did, Robert Plant said he'd always heard 'Stairway' as a spiritual song. He was thrilled that I used the choir on it."

As long as the writers like it, Dolly's not really worried about disapproving critics. "What are they gonna do, shoot me?" she asks, laughing. "Why not take chances? I'm at the age and I'm just the type of personality. I'm going to do as I please from now on. I've done as too many people pleased for too many years. Now that I'm back doing the music I want to do, I'm not putting limits on anything.

Read more about Dolly in the current "Newsstand Issue" of Country Weekly on sale now!

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