Sunday, April 6, 2008

High & Mighty...

So Dolly did "American Idol" on Tuesday and Wednesday.

She mentored the nine finalists and they all, in turn, performed her songs on the air on Tuesday.
Personally, I never thought we'd see her on Idol. If we have Danny Nozell to thank for anything, I suppose it's this. (As I begrudgingly admit that.)

It was really nice, though, to get to see and hear someone honoring a talent of Dolly's that often goes unnoticed... songwriting. It's something that most often times overshadowed by the glitz and the boobs and rhinestones and the hair.

But it was front and center stage on America's number one rated TV show this past week.
The song choices ranged from surprisingly wonderful, (Michael Johns' bluesy, stunning take on "It's All Wrong But It's All Right" and David Archuleta's gorgeous "Smoky Mountain Memories.) to predictable. (Kristy Lee Cook's horrid... let me start with a verse... version of "Coat of Many Colors" and Syesha's hybrid version of "I Will Always Love You." Was it a shocker to anyone that she chose that song?)

It got me to thinking, though, about all of the different versions of songs that Dolly has done over the years.

And that leads me to this post... I've included in this first part of the post, (there'll be another... I promise) five songs that were performed and featured on "American Idol" and that have been performed by Dolly over the years now on TV shows, talk shows, concerts, blah, blah, blah.

I always think it's nice to hear how a certain song has progressed over the years. Some (like "Appalachian Memories") get name changes and have a major overhaul. And some (like "9 to 5") stay pretty similar and consistent thru the years. (Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.) And of course there are songs that I always think sound better live than on CD. ("Here You Come Again" and "Two Doors Down" for me.)


First up is "9 to 5." Sure... that Idol sing a long was very cheesy. But it was also cute. And I was just glad that nobody chose it as one of their songs. (Though, it was supposedly Chikezie's choice had he not been eliminated.) I've included several versions of the song. There's one from the 80's show, one from the "A Capitol Fourth" concert she did in 2003, (she was quite hoarse... put she really dug into it.) and the version from her spectacular "Live in London" special in 1983. Also included is the version from the Vintage Tour stop at Radio City Music Hall, (I was there... it was fantabulous.) and the version she sang on The Tony Danza show while promoting "Those Were the Days."

Next is "Coat of Many Colors." It's timeless Dolly and I just thought that Kristy Lee Cook added absolutey nothing to the song. (I would have preferred Brooke to sing it.) Anyway... the versions I've included are from the 80's show, her Grand Ole Opry performance in 2007 during the Porter tribute, her 1970's performance on the Parkinson, a UK talk show, her heartbreaking performance at Ray Benson's short lived "Stars Over Texas" show, and finally her performance in Yorkshire this past Winter to promote the Imagination Library's introduction into the UK.

Personally, I liked Ramiele and her version of "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind." (And her studio version is even better.) And I really thought that Syesha should went home. But, alas... I'm not America. Anywho, I've included several versions of the song here. One from the 70's show and one from the 80's show, respectively. Also here is a performance from a German concert in 1977 to promote "New Harvest... First Gathering." Accompanying that is a remixed version that came out awhile back. A European record label remixed some of the songs from that concert to make them sound like studio versions. The "Live in London" version is here as well. And capping off the list is the version from "Best of Dolly Parton, Volume 3." It is a slightly remixed version with new instrumentation that was released to give the album a sales push.

"Here You Come Again" was a pretty good choice for Carly. Though, they really should have given Clay Aiken credit because he recently covered the song that way on his ill fated "A Thousand Different Ways" CD. (But... I can't really stand Clay Aiken anyway so I could care less.) Nevertheless, it was a great version and I'm not really sure why Simon didn't like it. The versions of the song included here are from the 80's show, (can you tell I love that show?) the "Live in London" version, a version from "The Midnight Special," the version from the Vintage tour stop at Radio City, and my personal favorite version of the song... ever. It's from a promotional concert she did in Portland to promote "Here You Come Again," the album. And as a bonus, I've included a remix by Milk Kan that was released a few years ago.

The last song in the post is "Little Sparrow." David Cook has never been my favorite. I personally think he's pretty arrogant and smug. But his performance this week did impress me quite a bit. (And Simon's sparrow comment was uncalled for. The man must have been attacked by a bird when he was little.) The versions of the song that I've included for your listening pleasure include her Austin City Limits performance to promote the album, her performance at the 9:30 Club in D.C. for the "Halos & Horns" tour. Also included is the Merlefest performance, the Vintage Tour stop in New York, and the acapella rendition from the UK promo CD.


And... as an added bonus... I've added Dolly's performance of "Jesus & Gravity" from Wednesday night's results show. (And I know, I know... it wasn't her best.)

Anywho... enjoy these songs. It's a big file. And I'll be uploading more songs sung on "American Idol" tomorrow.

And get to livin'!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All I Can Do...

... From keepin' this blog and these downloads maintained.

But I'm tryin'. I promise!

All of the dead links have been fixed. Get em while they're hot. I don't know how long Sendspace keeps em for.

And as for the pic... I'm doing a big "American Idol" related post as we speak. Lots and lots of songs. You'll all love it.

So until then... get to livin'!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Grass Is Blue...

Okay... so I never did post what I wanted to post last weekend. It was a huge file with all sorts of Dolly gospel goodies on it. (I promise... I'll post that soon.) My computer is all screwed up right now and it's not zipping the files the right way. And if I continually try and upload it and it doesn't work, I'm bound to chuck this thing out the window.

But I digress.

I did want to post something, though.

And so I figured that I'd share a few versions of one of my very favorite Dolly songs.

(It's actually third on my top ten of all time. "Jolene" tops the list with "My Blue Tears" coming in second. And if you really want to know, "The Bargain Store" is number four and "Down From Dover" number five.)

"The Grass Is Blue" is, to me, a typical Dolly lyric. It's a weeper of a song that packs a pretty heavy emotional wallop. And it's extremely clever as well. Ms. Dolly is able to take what could have been just another sad old heartbroken tale and rework it into something... just absolutely brilliant.

Starting off the file is Ms. Dolly's commentary on the song. It sheds some insight into what a spectacular writer she is and how the song came about. I always love to hear any type of insight whatsoever on anything she writes. I hope you'll enjoy it.

There are four different versions of the song as well.

The first is from the Washington D.C. stop on the "Halos & Horns" tour. It's similar to the "Live & Well" version but I enjoy it and the quality is very good. The next is from Merlefest, the huge bluegrass esque festival that happens every year in North Carolina. Dolly was the headliner that year and the crowds were the biggest the festival had ever seen. It's a fantastic version, though please disregard the talking that goes on at the beginning and a little bit during. (I cannnot imagine talking through a Dolly concert.)

The third is from the UK promo CD that came out last year to support the UK leg of her European tour. It was a free CD distributed through The Mail and contained 11 new tracks. (6 live ones and 5 newly recorded.) These are the songs that are showing up as bonus tracks on different versions of "Backwoods Barbie" from different stores. But "The Grass Is Blue" was available by pre-order from iTunes only so it's technically not commercially available. This is also the version of the song that Ms. Dolly has been performing in concert for a few years now. It's done on piano and it's simply the highlight of every show where I've seen her do it. (And as a side note... I really do hope she keeps it in her setlist and throws "The Lonesomes" in on piano as well.)

And the last version of the song is the duet that Dolly did with Norah Jones at the 2003 CMA awards. One word... orgasmic. I was tempted to include Norah Jones' rendition of the song from the 2003 tribute album but that is still commercially available. Nonetheless, I recommend that version of the song to EVERYBODY. It's absolutely fantastic.

Alright... I figured I'd post a quick one tonight. And I will work out the kinks and post something more substantial sometime this week.

Here's the link for the file.

And get to livin'!

Friday, February 29, 2008

A little maintenance...

I've just re-upped all of the dead links. (They're in their respective posts.)

Sorry about that.

And here's the link for the mp3 version of the "Potential New Boyfriend" remix. I missed it in the other set of downloads.

Anyway... I'm workin' on another post for this weekend.

Until then... get to livin'!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

She Drives Me Crazy... Woo, Woo!

"Backwoods Barbie" has literally been years in the making. It's had name changes, ("Country Is As Country Does") and song changes as well. (no "I Dreamed About Elvis," "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," or "Blue Smoke.") Fans, myself definitely among them, have been waiting with baited breath for the finished project.

We were teased with a few 30 second snippets here and there. And if I'm being honest, those just kinda frustrated me a little bit more. Needless to say... this album had me very, very nervous. I wondered exactly what was taking so long and exacty what Ms. Dolly had up her sleeve.

And to back up a bit... I will admit that I wasn't thrilled to hear that Ms. Dolly was again courting the mainstream country establishment. Not that I minded her singing mainstream country again. (Because let's face it... there's really a fine line between country, alt. country, and mainstream country... it's really all a matter of some banjos and a few fiddles.) I think I was more disappointed that she was trying to please an establishment that turned their backs on her and refuses to play her records... no matter how superior they are to any of the other dreck that's produced these days.

But... I digress.

With those little disclaimers in tow... here's my review of "Backwoods Barbie."

"Better Get to Livin'" starts off the album and part of me almost wants to discount it. Not because I don't love the song but mainly because I've listened to it hundreds and hundreds of times already. (It has a near 500 play count on my iTunes.) It is a fantastic song, though. I know that some people found it a little preachy. (And I did at first as well.) But I just think it's a well written song with a great melody and some pretty awesome vocals. And if coutry DJ's weren't so ageist and sexist, it should have definitely been a bigger hit.

Next up is "Made of Stone," which I like. Very much actually. Like a lot of other Dolly fans, I originally thought that this was the third cover song on the album. (And of course, this leaves me salivating for a cover of the Stone Roses' song.) But this is typical "he done me wrong" Dolly and it's well written and has an infectious chorus. And the vocals are amazing.

"Drives Me Crazy" (or "You Drive Me Crazy... they've given this song forty seven different names.) is probably my favorite song from the album. I've always adored the original. I love the beat, love the melody, and could the chorus be any more infectious? (Woo, woo!) I love the acapella opening, I love the fiddles, I love the vocals, I love the fact that I now actually know all of the words to this song. Most of all I LOVE the bluegrass hootnanny Ms. Dolly threw in at the end. It's so unexpected and it literally comes out of nowhere. This is definitely the song I'm looking forward to most in concert. (Well... maybe it's a tie between this and Shinola.)

"Backwoods Barbie." Hmm. Can I be honest? I didn't like it at first. (I know, I know.) And if I'm continuing the honesty... it's definitely still not my favorite. This was the song that she hyped up the most in the interviews leading up to the album. And whenever she quoted lyrics from it, I never thought of a slow song. I think I was thinking more tongue in cheek than earnest. And so the slow melody (which is very, very reminiscent of "Coat,") caught me off guard. But... regardless of tempo, it is a very heartfelt song. And if it does anything, it'll definitely build word of mouth for "9 to 5 the Musical."

The new single, "Jesus & Gravity" is an unassuming little song. It definitely does not start out like your usual gospel number. I love the instrumentation in the beginning along with the fluttery harmony vocals. And as for the song itself, it's just really very infectious. The lyrics speak volumes about having something bigger than all of us... and not necessarily in a religious way either. It's a very moving number and I'm sure this'll be one of my favorites in concert.

And then we come to "Only Dreamin'." My mother once taught me that if I didn't have something nice to say about something, I shouldn't say anything at all. I think I shall take that advice now. :)

"Tracks of My Tears" is a fun little song. Though, I'm not really sure if it builds on or adds to the original. Her vocals on the end are really stunning. And it's nice to hear her sing it, though. It's always been one of my favorites.

"The Lonesomes" is next... and what a breath of fresh air. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Can I tell you how very much I love this song? This is jazz club material. It's such a wonderful surprise after two disappointing tracks. It comes out of nowhere. It could have been done slow and sad and mawkish. But that would have ruined it. This is light hearted and breezy and fun. And the vocals here are beautiful, especially at the end. Another one I wanna hear in concert. (I love when she does a piano number.)

"Cologne" was the song that intrigued me the most after hearing the previews. Her vocals are nothing less than stunning on this song. I love the harmony vocals at the beginning. I love the unassuming way that the song does a turnaround. I love the lyrics. This is a fantastic, well written song. This isn't "Salt In My Tears" or "Honky Tonk Songs." This is Ms. Dolly telling a story that doesn't take sides. And that last line... what else can I say? It gives me chills.

Could there be a cornier song than "Shinola?" :) I don't think so. But it doesn't really matter how corny it is, because I absolutely adore it. Come on. Who the hell hasn't felt this way about a previous love once or twice (or forty two times) before? The beat is great and she's got those feisty vocals going on that I love so very much. The bleep has been divisive. There are some people who've told me they think it's cute. There are some who've said it drives them crazy. I'm kinda ambivalent about it. I just wonder if she'll actually do it in concert. But I really do love the song. I'm glad she resurrected this from the "Hungry Again" vault and finally recorded it.

"Yellow Roses" has always been one of my favorite Dolly songs and so I nearly plotzed when I read she was doing a new song about roses. How could she miss? Well... "I Will Forever Hate Roses" is no "Yellow Roses." But... it's definitely growing on me. The melody is fairly reminiscent of a few older Dolly songs. But the lyrics are strong. And the chorus is pretty infectious. It's old timey honky tonk music and it's nice to hear her sing something like that again.

"Somebody's Everything" is the perfect cap to an album for me. This is the obscure song on the album for me. You know the one. The one that you love, love, love that nobody else ever mentions. (I have many... "The River Unbroken" from "Rainbow," "Wait Til I Get You Home" from "White Limozeen," "If Only" from "Halos & Horns.") I just absolutely adore this song. Maybe it's because Ms. Dolly has taken my hopeless romantic feelings and put them into song. Maybe it's because that second verse is just so... true. Maybe it's because when she does that little acapella... "Yes, I want to be somebody's everything. And I'm gonna be somebody's everything" line at the end... I just bawl.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's because those "let loose" vocals at the end of the song prove that delays and a few bad song choices and a not so reliable website aside... she can still, at the age of 62, blow all of those other women out of the water.

And I guess that's what any Dolly album proves, to me at least.

"Backwoods Barbie" might not be my favorite Dolly album of all time. It might not even fall in my top ten. (At least yet.)

But... it's good. It's very good. And it showcases two simple things that, for me, make Dolly Parton the most talented and successful and thriving artist in the music business today.

Two things that the glitz and the make-up and the boobs and the bawdy humor might sometimes overshadow... the lyrics and the voice.

And with those two things... she can never lose.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wow, Meow!

So sometime in 1999, Dolly recorded some demos for an animated version of "Tom Sawyer." I'm not exactly sure if maybe it was a bigger deal during production and then downgraded to a Made for TV movie that went strictly to video. And I can't even comment on the quality of the movie either. I've never seen it.

I have heard the demos though. And I can't even remotely understand why they weren't used in the film. The movie is country through and through. Lee Ann Womack voices Becky. Mark Wills is Huckleberry Finn. Other country luminaries who provide voice overs include Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams, Jr., and Waylon Jennings. (And Betty White... I know she's not a country icon, but she's Rose freaking Nylund and a Golden Girls mention never goes unpassed by me.)

But anyway, with such a cast and a country tinged feel, one would assume that Ms. Dolly's fabulous songs would complete the perfect equation.

Such was not the case. For whatever reason, none of her songs were used. A soundtrack was released. Again, I've never heard the songs. And again, most of the stars of the film appear on the soundtrack.

So... Dolly's song unfortunately didn't make the cut.

But they did here, of course.

There are five songs in all. And I know I'm biased. But I really like all of em. Some are corny, some absolutely beautiful. Really the perfect mix of Dolly that any fan would love.

First off is "Adventure," a cute little ditty with some catchy lyrics. "Country Boys" follows and is probably my favorite. I love the melody and the lyrics are cute and snappy. "Makin' Me Crazy" is one of those instances where I like Dolly's wispy, whispery vocals. It's often a toss up as to whether I enjoy them (i.e. "Crippled Bird") and when I don't, (i.e. "The Cruel War.)

Next up is "We Might Be In Love," a fabulous, wonderful, amazing song that first appeared in "Blue Valley Songbird." Here it's done solo and I think it's a beautiful song. I really hope that she'll eventually do a studio version of it one day.

The last song is a little strange. But not really if you know the context of the film. All of the characters are animals. And Tom, Huck, and Becky are cats. Hence "Wow, Meow!" It's a very cute song and I guarantee that after one listen, you'll be singing it all day.

So there you have it. Some new Dolly to start your week off.

Let me know what you think. Did you like? Did you love it?

Here's the link...

Enjoy... and get to livin'!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dolly Does Dusty...

So I've been listening to (and enjoying way too much I might add) Shelby Lynne's new album, "Just a Little Lovin'." It's an album dedicated to and inspired by the music of the magnificent Dusty Springfield. It's really like eighteen shades of awesome and I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I recommend it to everyone, especially if you're a Dusty or Shelby fan.

The only disappointing aspect of the album for me is the fact that Lynne doesn't cover my favorite Springfield song of all time, "Son of a Preacher Man." Such love have I had for this song that I wanted to perform it in my third grade talent show. (Much to my mother's horror I might add.) This little plan of mine never came to fruition. (Much to my mother's relief I'm sure.) But my love for the song never diminished.

Where is the Dolly connection, you ask? There is one. I promise.

"Son of a Preacher Man" was recorded by Dolly for either "Something Special" or "Treasures." (Methinks "Treasures," since it was a cover album and "Something Special" was an album composed solely of Dolly originals. But I could be wrong.) Anyway, for one reason or another, the song was not included on the album.

Nevertheless, it was performed on the Tonight Show and an episode of "Primetime Country" from the now defunct TNN network. I'm not quite sure why it was performed on these shows and not included on the album. That seems odd. (There are rumors that it appears on a European laserdisc. I've never heard a studio version of the song.)

The version that I've included for download is from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I have to admit, it's not the best quality. Not bad by any means. Just not wonderful either.

It also pains me to say that I'm actually not crazy about Ms. Dolly's version of the song. (Heresy, I know.) It's just missing something for me. Maybe it's the fact that the orchestrations are so drastically different from Dusty's version. I don't know.

But I saw a few posts over at the official site with people saying that they wanted to hear it. So I figured I'd post it here.

Ohh... and I just wanted to thank everyone who has written me about the blog. It's nice to know that people are reading and downloading. If anybody has any requests, let me know. If I have it, (and it's not commercially available) I'll put it up.

Here's the link. Enjoy!