Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 August 14 • Monday

Imagine if Dolly Parton hated you. Your life would be over, wouldn't it? But it seems unlikely that Dolly Parton actually hates anyone. I'm sure there are lots of people she wishes would do better or behave differently but I bet she doesn't actually hate anybody. It's one of the reasons she's so freakin' great.

And here's another reason: her music for the movie Dumplin', our 791st Soundtrack of the Week.

The first song is the uplifting "Here I Am", part gospel and part "Let It Be", in which Parton duets with Sia.

Elle King then joins Parton for the toe-tapping country-rock of "Holdin' On to You", which has sly funkiness in the rhythm section.

Acoustic guitar creates the lonely sound for "Girl in the Movies", a song that tells a story of wistful dreams, made achingly beautiful by slide guitar and string section.

Next is "Red Shoes", which sounds like a classic Dolly Parton autobiographical song, similar to "Coat of Many Colors". Pedal steel guitar adds a sublime layer of sound to the band.

Now Mavis Staples joins Parton for the driving and bluesy "Why", which has earthy bottleneck slide guitar running through it.

"Dumb Blonde" is a solid country number, from instrumentation and arrangement to melody and lyrics. And it's fantastic. Where's Dolly Parton's Nobel prize?

An affecting lyrical piano-driven song is next, sad and gentle, performed by Parton with Willa Amai.

The next song, "Who", continues the note of melancholy as Parton sings about insecurity and loss of hope.

The tone gets more hopeful with "Push and Pull", which has a relaxed but insistent pulse to it and more gorgeous singing and touching lyrics. Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald are also on this.

After that Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent join Parton for the sprightly bluegrass number "If We Don't", sure to get your energy level up a bit higher.

The record closes with new versions of a couple of classic Dolly Parton hits: first there's the backbeat-propelled "Two Doors Down" with Macy Gray and tha band Dorothy and then, just in case you've somehow managed to remain unmoved by the brilliance, musicality and feeling of everything that's come before, here's "Jolene" performed by Parton with a string ensemble. It's devastating.