Dolly Parton
Denver Post
August 9, 2002
Parton goes back to her roots
By G. Brown

Riding the dusty coattails of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, veteran country artists are rediscovering their mountain roots.  But Dolly Parton already has issued three successful projects of what she refers to as "blue mountain music."

In 2000, "The Grass Is Blue," her first bluegrass collection, won a Grammy Award for best bluegrass album as well as album of the year honors at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards.  "Little Sparrow," released in 2001, was even better - in a similar style, she "grassed it up" on her own material and did an exceptional interpretation of Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You," and her cover of Collective Soul's "Shine" netted her a Grammy for best female country vocal performance.

Now there's the heartfelt Smoky Mountains flavor of her new album, "Halos & Horns."

"My life has been so lucky and so charmed," Parton, 56, said recently.  "I was feeling desperate to get back to music, my first love.  I was still writing songs every day, but I wasn't getting any play on the radio . . .

"Then Sugar Hill Records, the bluegrass label, did some sort of survey, and of all the different artists who had never done a bluegrass album that they'd love to hear do one, believe it or not, I was right at the top of the list.  I said, "Well, I know exactly what songs I'd do . . .'  The time was right for it - people evidently like to hear me do that honest American roots stuff."

The Appalachian aura of "Halos & Horns" is found on "These Old Bones," an extraordinary story-song about a witch who proves to be psychic and her daughter who possesses the same powers.  Parton portrays the daughter in her own voice and also provides the cracked voice of the old mountain woman.

"I'm doing a video on it!  I'm playing both parts - I'm dressing down to create the character of the old mountain woman, and I even had some chipped yellow teeth done.  It would be wonderful for a television series or a movie of the week."

"Hello God" was written out of Parton's emotional response to the tragic events of Sept. 11.

"We don't know what we need or how lucky we are until something goes wrong, and then we're like a bunch of kids running to our parents who told us not to be doing that to start with.  Hello, God, are you out there?  Can you hear us?  Have we screwed up so bad that you don't even want to listen anymore?  You've given us free choice and look what we've done with it."

Parton revives Bread's classic "If," but the most intriguing track on the album is a basic and extremely poignant cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven."  Using a gospel choir, she pulls it off grandly.

"My husband loves Led Zeppelin, and I've heard it all through the years.  It's a classic, no one messes with it - I thought, "Well, I'll do it, and if it doesn't turn out, no one will ever know.'  I thought the melody lent itself to my voice, it sounded old-world, and I added a few ad-lib lines to make it like someone trying to buy their way to heaven, and it can't be done - you've got to work to get there.

"It was a bold move to try it, but who am I afraid of now?"

Promoting "Halos & Horns," Parton has hit the road for the first time in a decade, and she'll visit the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday.  The Country Music Hall of Famer is working with some East Tennessee musicians from her Dollywood entertainment complex who participated on the album.

"A lot of people think Dollywood is a small amusement area, but it's a theme park - we have a Southern gospel museum in addition to all of our country and bluegrass and mountain folk shows.  I picked a lot of those people for my album, because I know how talented they are.

"Now I put together a group called the Blue-niques.  We're just having a big time!"