Backwoods Barbie

Backwoods Barbie

4.5 25
by Dolly Parton

Following an incredibly fruitful three-album tenure with Sugar Hill, Dolly Parton makes a much-ballyhooed, and ultimately successful, return to the country mainstream with Backwoods Barbie. But make no mistake -- it's a return on her own terms, as she wrote and largely produced the album for her own newly formed label. Typical of her best work, Parton deliversSee more details below


Following an incredibly fruitful three-album tenure with Sugar Hill, Dolly Parton makes a much-ballyhooed, and ultimately successful, return to the country mainstream with Backwoods Barbie. But make no mistake -- it's a return on her own terms, as she wrote and largely produced the album for her own newly formed label. Typical of her best work, Parton delivers meaningful songs with panache, conviction, and commanding style, in both songs and arrangements. A strong streak of vulnerability surfaces via lush production touches and Dolly's soaring, aching vocals -- landing a visceral punch with her accounts of a heart bruised, battered, betrayed, and broken. These range from the torch-style, bluesy wailing of "Made of Stone" to the woozy, late-night country blues of "The Lonesomes" to the bitter reflections articulated in the honky tonk-flavored, pedal steel-rich screed "I Will Forever Hate Roses." The Fine Young Cannibals' hit "Drive Me Crazy" is a techno-country fusion that's likely a showstopper in concert, but it's one of Dolly's lesser cover choices, lacking the lyrical and musical depth of her re-imagining of "Stairway to Heaven" on 2002's Halos & Horns or, going back to 1977, New Harvest...First Gathering's country-disco arrangement of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" (better than mere words can suggest). On the other hand, Dolly returns, gloriously, to the Smokey Robinson songbook (see the aforementioned 1977 release for her version of "My Girl") for a delicious southern country-soul treatment of "Tracks of My Tears," a beautifully realized production that blends the best elements of Smokey's and Johnny Rivers's hit versions with Dolly's impeccable sense of the lyrics' emotional shadings. The title track is a winning, stone-country, personal ballad in the "Coat of Many Colors" mold in which Dolly asserts, "I might look artificial but where it counts I'm real." Never doubted, not for a second.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
It's been three years since Dolly Parton released a new album, and nearly two decades since she put out anything close to a mainstream country offering, so Backwoods Barbie ought to get some serious media attention, although it remains to be seen whether the now 62-year-old Parton will get much play on the new country stations. The first single from the album, the cloyingly wise "Better Get to Livin'," is certainly catchy enough, but the fact remains that Parton's voice isn't quite what it used to be and she wasn't exactly Patsy Cline in the first place. What she is, and has been all these years, is a true iconic presence in country music, a shrewd marketer, an astute businesswoman (Backwoods Barbie appears from her own Dolly Records), and a frequently brilliant if understated songwriter (nine of the 12 tracks here are Parton originals). Unlike her last couple of albums, which were bluegrass-based, she isn't trying to reinvent herself here, but works in her usual pop and country hybrid style (even tenderly covering Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears"), not trying too hard to be contemporary, although the production touches are there (the album was co-produced by Parton and her bandleader, guitarist Kent Wells), certainly, and her version of Betsy Ulmer and Craig Wiseman's "Jesus & Gravity," even more than "Better Get to Livin'," could well find itself in regular rotation on new country radio stations, at least in a fair and equitable world. Other highlights here include the title song, which shows Parton still in tune with her public image (she really always has been, of course), and the beautiful and delicate original "Only Dreamin'," which shows that, beneath all the big wigs and glamour, Parton is still a fine songwriter with an uncommon sense of grace, economy, and wisdom. Backwoods Barbie might not break the bank out there, and it would take a good deal of marketing and luck for any of these tracks to hit the top of the new country charts, but it shows that Parton can still deliver the package in fine style and only the fools among us would ever count her down and out, no matter how many bluegrass albums she does.
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Willman
Penning most of the material, she offers radio-friendly pep talks (in ''Better Get to Livin','' she declares, ''I'm not the Dalai Lama, but I'll try to offer up a few words of advice'') and '70s-style adultery laments (''She'll know you've been with me alone, and I'm a scent you can't take home,'' she croons in ''Cologne''). [B+]

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Product Details

Release Date:
Dolly Records


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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Dolly Parton   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals
Rhonda Vincent   Background Vocals
Lloyd Green   Steel Guitar
Terry Eldredge   Background Vocals
David Angell   Violin
Sam Bacco   Percussion
Mike Brignardello   Bass,Bass Guitar
Terry Crisp   Steel Guitar
David Davidson   Violin
Richard Dennison   Background Vocals
Connie Ellisor   Violin
Paul Franklin   Guitar,Steel Guitar
Carl Gorodetzky   Violin
Jim Grosjean   Viola
Vicki Hampton   Background Vocals
Paul Hollowell   Organ,Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ,fender rhodes,Yamaha Keyboards,Hammond B3
Carl Jackson   Background Vocals
Anthony LaMarchina   Cello
Brent Mason   Electric Guitar
Jimmy Mattingly   Fiddle,Mandolin
Jerry McPherson   Electric Guitar
John Mock   Harmonium,Bodhran,tin whistle
Jennifer O'Brien   Background Vocals
Hargus "Pig" Robbins   Piano
Pamela Sixfin   Violin
Steve Turner   Percussion,Drums
Alan Umstead   Violin
Catherine Umstead   Violin
Gary VanOsdale   Viola
Mary Kathryn Van Osdale   Violin
Biff Watson   Acoustic Guitar
Lonnie Wilson   Percussion,Drums
Aubrey Haynie   Fiddle,Mandolin
Darrin Vincent   Background Vocals
Kent Wells   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Sonya Isaacs   Background Vocals
Billy Davis   Background Vocals
Monisa Angell   Viola
Derek Wells   Electric Guitar
Karen Winkelmann   Violin
Bryan Sutton   Acoustic Guitar
Janet Askey   Violin
Tom Bukovac   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Carole Rabinowitz-Neuen   Cello
Jamie Johnson   Background Vocals
Carolyn Bailey   Violin
Christopher Farrell   Viola
Alecia Nugent   Background Vocals
Marty Slayton   Background Vocals
Rob McNelley   Electric Guitar
Steve Mackey   Bass,Bass Guitar
Sarighani Reist   Cello
Zeneba Bowers   Violin
Kirsten Cassell   Cello
Rebecca Isaacs Bowman   Background Vocals
Chris Farrell   Viola
Dave Talbot   Banjo

Technical Credits

Dolly Parton   Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Jim DeMain   Mastering,Remastering
Kris Wilkinson String Section   String Arrangements
Warren "Pete" Moore   Composer
Stephen Shareaux   Conceptual Assistance
David Steele   Composer
Steve Summers   Conceptual Assistance
Kristin Wilkinson   Arranger
Craig Wiseman   Composer
William Robinson   Composer
Roland Gift   Composer
Kent Wells   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Marvin Tarplin   Composer
Kii Arens   Art Direction
Patrick Murphy   Engineer
Robert Behar   Costume Design
Betsy Ulmer   Composer
Kyle Dickinson   Engineer
Alex McCullogh   Remastering
Warren Moore   Composer

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