Dolly Parton – Rockstar – 2023
You can say what you like about Dolly Parton but she is a legend in her own right. She’s not necessarily associated with rock music although I personally think that she’s been involved in all kinds of genres during her million years in the music business. Rockstar is a rock album though, but it’s done Dolly style. What does that mean? Has she taken a bunch of rock classics and made them her own,? Has she put her own mark on rock music?
Well, yes and no I would say. Dolly Parton’s voice and way of singing are so recognizable that it’s impossible not to tell who is performing the songs. She more often than not does the song with guest artists. Usually, the original artist or at least an artist is heavily associated with the song she’s performing. She, herself is in control though, It’s her doing the songs, it’s on her terms and it’s often done with some form of humor to it.
There are a couple of songs where she starts off with a dialog with the original artist, almost presenting the song to the audience. It’s a nice touch and homage to the original artists but I also get the feeling that she’s saying something like “You originally did this song but now I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do it my way, and better”. That is solely my interpretation of course.
But I more often than not like the songs. They are not perfect, they are not bad covers, but they are decent. It’s well-produced music, almost too well-produced if you ask me. Too well-produced music tends to be more in my ears. You take the edge out of it and it just becomes something that is…well… produced, It’s not performed anymore. Everything falls perfectly into place and that makes it boring in my mind. I need a little dissonance here and there for it to sound alive.
All of the songs are not covers though. There are a few written by Dolly Parton on the album. I don’t think they stand out more than any of the others and I have no idea if they were written for Rockstar or if they’re old songs recorded in new versions. I’m not into Dolly Parton so much that I can tell. Besides, she’s written a gazillion songs throughout her long career. Who am I to tell if she’s recycled some of them or not?
As you might guess, there are also a gazillion guest artists on Rockstar. Most of them are singers of course but there are also other rock artists on there. We have Rob Halford, Sting, Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock, John Fogerty, Richie Sambora, John 5, Nikki Sixx, Debbie Harry, Elton John, Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Peter Frampton, Pat Benatar, Pink and, Joan Jett just to name a few.
So, the bottom line is that it’s an ambitious project for sure. Dolly Parton does the songs well enough. But there is way too much music on an album of this type. About halfway in you start to wish it was over and then you realize that there’s another hour of music left to hear. On the regular edition, there are 30 songs and it’s well over 2 hours long, almost two and a half really. There are also a few bonus tracks on other editions of the album according to Wikipedia. I guess that’s fine for the die-hard Dolly Parton fans. But to me, it’s more of an annoyance. It’s almost like she didn’t want to exclude songs not to make anyone sad. But the fact is that this release would have benefited strongly if there were half as many songs on it!
Finally, my favorites: I dreamed about Elvis and Bygones. The latter features Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx, and John 5 although it’s a Dolly Parton original. Well. both of them are. Maybe she should do her own rock songs next time and leave the classics outside of the scope?