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.


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