Dolly Parton's father used to call her "his little songbird." She adapted that nickname for the title of her latest album "Little Sparrow." Dedicated to the memory of her father, who passed away last November, the collection is the second of three planned recordings that take Dolly back to her Appalachian and bluegrass roots.
"I've been singing this music all my life," she said. "This is really the music truest to my heart. And I had an award-winning album last year, and so we thought since people received it so well, I should probably continue, but to add a few dimensions. So, we added a little bit of Irish music with this. We added a lot of my things. I wrote a lot of the songs. So, it's really kind of got a lot of the folk ballads, some more bluegrass-type things."
Dolly wrote seven of the 14 songs on "Little Sparrow." She also included new bluegrass versions of the Cole Porter standard "I Get A Kick Out Of You," Collective Soul's "Shine," and the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road."
Guests on "Little Sparrow" include singers Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, members of the Irish band Altan, plus some of Nashville's noted studio musicians. Dolly's pure, emotional vocals stand out on the collection. She feels her emotions can be heard more clearly on her acoustic recordings.
She said, "I have a very little voice and it's really good for me not to have to sing over a lot of electric instruments and drums. And bluegrass, it's not known for that sort of thing. But, it's really great because I really feel like I can really sing it from the heart and it be heard, as opposed to just singing loud."
Critics and traditional Country music fans love Dolly's "blue mountain music," as she calls it. The 55-year-singer understands the commercial radio business, and says she holds nothing against today's popular artists.
"I can't complain," she said. "I've had a wonderful life. I don't begrudge all the new people all their things. Of course, I still would like to be played on the radio, but the kind of music I'm doing now is really what I came to Nashville to do when I couldn't make a living at it. So, I had to get out and do other things in order to afford to sing this kind of music."
Last year, Dolly won the Album of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association for her 1999 collection "The Grass Is Blue." She will finish her planned trilogy of old-time music with an album of Appalachian folk songs.