Just Because I'm a Woman:
The Songs of Dolly Parton
label: Sugar Hill
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
Underrated Songwriter Gets Half a Tribute
by: matt cibula
Given: That Dolly Parton is more than just
a country singer with hugely inflated breasts. You do know that,
don’t you? If you don’t, you should pay attention;
her voice is still one of the finest instruments being used in
American music, and her songwriting skills are even more impressive
than her voice.
(If you are an anti-country snob, you might
as well stop reading right here. Plus, go slam your head in the
door or something. You suck about as much as people who like all
kinds of music except rap.)
So this tribute to the songs she has written
should kill, but it doesn’t, and that’s frustrating.
It starts off weakly, with Alison Krauss’ subdued bluegrass-lite
reading of “9 to 5”—the only reason for this
song to exist is because it’s a fun trivial bounce, and
Krauss has no idea how to do that. Melissa Etheridge’s take
on the chestnut “I Will Always Love You” is even worse,
all head and no heart; it’s clear that she’s singing
to hear herself sing, that what she will always love is the sound
of her own voice.
And it will come as no shock that Shania Twain hits all the right
notes but has no feeling whatsoever on “Coat of Many Colors.”
But enough of that, let’s talk about
the kick-ass stuff. I’ve never liked Joan Osborne until
now, after hearing her perfectly undersing “Do I Ever Cross
Your Mind,” and Sinead O’Connor nails “Dagger
Through the Heart” by doing the same thing, really stretching
it out only on the choruses. (She could have a country career
if she came out of retirement, until the inevitable insane crackup.)
Kasey Chambers takes the difficult “Little Sparrow”
and knifes it right in the heart with her big little voice.
Brilliant move to get sisters Shelby Lynne
and Allison Moorer to both do songs, and they rise to the occasion.
Moorer goes ambient dub, almost, on “Light of a Clear Blue
Morning,” and makes it work because she’s got the
best voice in country music; Lynne does her new indie-rocker thing
on “The Seeker.” Let’s also give many props
to the producers for asking Me’shell N’Degéocello
to take on “Two Doors Down.” Her sexy vamp doesn’t
exactly fit in, but it’s brave and hott and wonderful.
The best song here, and maybe of all time,
is “Jolene,” and newcomer Mindy Smith knocks it out
of the park with stunning wounded clarity. This is one of the
best singles of the year, and I can’t wait for her first
album, which is due in January.
And then, there’s the bonus track.
I won’t give it away, but maybe Dolly herself shows up.
And maybe she shames virtually everyone else by just opening her
mouth. A pretty ending, because it’s about the song itself,
rather than the singer. Some people should keep that in mind,
liked Just Because I'm a Woman...
9 To 5 - Alison Krauss
2. I Will Always Love You - Melissa Etheridge
3. The Grass In Blue - Norah Jones
4. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind - Joan Osborne
5. The Seeker - Shelby Lynne
6. Jolene - Mindy Smith
7. To Daddy - Emmylou Harris
8. Coat Of Many Colors - Shania Twain
9. Little Sparrow - Kasey Chambers
10. Dagger Through The Heart - Sinead O'Connor
11. Light Of A Clear Blue Morning - Allison
12. Two Doors Down - Me'Shell N'Degeocello
13. Just Because I'm A Woman - Dolly Parton