Album: Dolly Parton, Backwoods Barbie (Dolly/Universal)

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The Independent Culture

The first album on her own label has apparently secured Dolly Parton her first Top 20 placing since 1993 – and no wonder, given its combination of technical accomplishment and sheer likeability.

Still extraordinarily toothsome for a sexagenarian, what's particularly impressive about Parton is her refusal to be bound by purely visual presuppositions: as she asserts in the autobiographical title-track, behind the big hair and boobs, "I run true and deep". That deceptive depth is fully borne out by the quality of her songwriting here, whether she's taking a simple device and running with it, as in "Cologne" (the plight of an Other Woman asked by her lover not to wear perfume, so his wife won't smell her on him), or coming on like a Nashville agony aunt on the single "Better Get to Livin'", prefacing her advice with an aw-shucks disclaimer that she's "not the Dalai Lama".

And on the few occasions she's not performing her own material, Parton has an enviable ear for unexpected covers, in this case finding the bluegrass hearts of both Fine Young Cannibals' "[She] Drives Me Crazy" and Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears".

Pick of the album:'Better Get to Livin'', 'Backwoods Barbie', 'Cologne', 'Tracks of My Tears'