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Dolly delivers with down
home appeal

Dolly Parton
Chicago Theatre
Chicago, IL
May 9, 2008
Dolly Parton Dolly Parton Dolly Parton

Story by Kathryn Randall
Photos by Andy Argyrakis

Between her high hair, flashy fingernails, costly costumes and one of a kind figure, Dolly Parton is one of the most recognized personalities in country music, or rather, pop culture period. Even though style's been her mainstay throughout the past four-plus decades in show business, she still packs plenty of substance by branching into bluegrass, gospel and pop, while writing her own songs and picking up several instruments (including a rhinestone studded guitar). From the opening karaoke cries of "Two Doors Down" through the closing chants of "9 To 5" reprised, Dolly was large and in charge, chirping with pleasantries in between tunes and sounding even sweeter as a singer.

The first act featured a mixture of Parton standards, such as the jubilant "Jolene" and the easygoing storybook song "Coat of Many Colors." But with a new album to plug, there were also plenty of recent expressions, like the runaway favorite "Backwoods Barbie" that straddled the lines of delicate femininity and divaness with down home centering. She also dusted off several vintage cuts with deeper meanings, including "Old Time Religion" and "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man."

However, Parton truly pulled out all the stops after intermission, demonstrating just how far her reach spans across multiple genres. On her own account, "9 To 5" and "Islands In the Stream" (originally sung with Kenny Rogers) marked her most triumphant crossovers that topped the pop charts in 1980 and 1983 respectively. In the spirit of paying tribute to others, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" was served up with sass, while the Otis Redding turned Aretha Franklin favorite "Respect" scored with soulful charm thanks to assistance from a backing vocalist. Parton's tender "I Will Always Love You" also fit in with that lauded company, becoming quite a classic of her own and an emotional pinnacle of the evening.

Even though the two hours were packed with plenty of tunes, a night with Parton wouldn't be complete without vibrant outfits, plus a joke (or ten). Those who've seen her on TV or in person before can probably point out a few she's recycled over the years, but then again, laughter abounded throughout the entire audience. And just for the record, fans were giggling with her and not at her, since this show confirmed Parton's musical skills, versatility and broad base appeal that can only be attributed to a legend of her stature.

Related articles:

Dolly Parton - Little Sparrow - CD review - April 2001
Dolly Parton Dolly Parton

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