It's been more than 35 years since Dolly Parton entered the music business. For the past five years, she has focused on the music she heard while growing up. Dolly describes the sound as "blue mountain music," which blends bluegrass with traditional Appalachian folksongs. Many critics call her latest effort, Halos And Horns, one of the best recordings of her career.
Dolly Parton's new album, Halos And Horns, is the third in her acoustic "blue mountain music" series for Sugar Hill Records. The first, The Grass is Blue, earned Dolly the Album of the Year honor at the 2000 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. Last year, she won the Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy for a track from her second acoustic CD, Little Sparrow.
Dolly explains why she named her latest project Halos And Horns. She said, "I just thought it was a good title actually, for people that are too good to be bad and too bad to be good. We're just somewhere in there between vanilla centers, and we take off our horns and wear halos again. You know, it’s kind of like we want to be good. I tried to do a TV show with that title. I never could get it off the ground. I thought, 'Well, I’ll just call my CD that and write a song.'"
Dolly wrote 12 of the 14 tracks on Halos And Horns. She said two of those songs, "Hello God" and "Raven Dove," came to her following the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. Dolly also recorded a bluegrass version of Bread’s 1971 Top Five ballad "If," and a gospel-based cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic "Stairway To Heaven."
"I’ve always loved both songs," she said. "And, of course, Bread, I just loved everything they did. With 'If,' we did it uptempo. We added more of a bluegrass thing, which turned out nice. Sort of like Ray Stevens did [with] 'Misty.' And then 'Stairway To Heaven,' I just took a chance on doing that. I thought, 'How will I do this?,' because I love this song so much. So, we pulled it off, I think. You get familiar with the song, you want to be true to the song. But, that just goes to show you that a good song will always stand up and you can do it all kinds of ways. And, we added a little bluegrass flavor."
Featured on Halos And Horns is Dolly’s new band The Blu-niques. The best known of the eight-member group is Jimmy Mattingly, who played fiddle in Garth Brooks' band Stillwater, and was an original member of Rascal Flatts. The Blu-niques will accompany Dolly on a much-anticipated tour.
"I haven’t been on the road in 10 years," she continued. "I haven’t had a group together in 10 years. So, this is going to be fun. We’re so looking forward to this summer."
Dolly's U.S. tour got underway on July 10 in New York City. Shows are currently scheduled through August 31. Later in the year, she'll launch a promotional tour in England and Ireland.