Album Review: Dolly Parton – A Holly Dolly Christmas

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Dolly reinforces the joy of Christmas with her famous friends

When considering the greatest country musicians to ever grace this planet, a few names come to mind: George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. A living legend and highly respected member of the music community, Parton’s legacy transcends borders, genres and lifestyles. Dolly released her first album Hello, I’m Dolly in 1967 and rose to fame almost instantly. Though mainly pushed forward by her own personality and talent, Dolly was mentored by some of the biggest names in the industry at the time, including Porter Wagoner.

Since the day her debut album released, apt words to describe her greatness have become harder and harder to find. Not only has Dolly Parton composed over 3,000 songs, but among these songs (“I Will Always Love You,” “9 to 5” and “Jolene”) some have come to be some of the most well-known and beloved tracks of all time. In addition, Parton has had 25 different tracks hit Number 1 on Billboard’s country charts earning her the record for most from a female country singer. However, she is not just a single machine; her albums reflect her greatness as well with 44 albums being slated Top 10, a record for any artist regardless of gender. In the last years, Dolly has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was honored at the 50th Annual Country Music Awards. Dolly has also acted in, produced and directed multiple TV shows and movies.

Sticking with her larger-than-life persona known to try new things, Dolly Parton has decided to release a Christmas album this year called A Holly Dolly Christmas. Unlike most Christmas albums, however, this one has a star-studded cast. With features from both Billie Ray and Miley Cyrus, Willie Nelson, Michael Bublé and even Jimmy Fallon, Parton has attempted to spread Christmas cheer to many of her friends. In addition, there are many original Christmas songs on here that are not the same tired songs people hear on the radio every December.

One of these such songs listeners find at the beginning of the album, “Christmas Is.” Dolly Parton reflects on the great things about Christmas with the help of her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus. She sings Christmas is “all about kindness, love and compassion.” Nothing less would be expected from the motherly presence that Dolly gives country music. She then continues on to say that Christmas is “to rejoice in His glory, the great Christmas story, and to the all that you’re sharing and with.”

In the next song, Dolly does a little “Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas” with the always-talented Michael Bublé. A swingy, jazzy take on a Christmas love story, Parton and Bublé go back and forth agreeing with each other about how much they would like to “cuddle up and cozy down” with each other. A musically grand piece filled with horns, piano, chimes and strings, Bublé is able to put his big-band touch on this album.

The most interesting part of the album comes with Parton and Jimmy Fallon’s rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Beginning with a breathy, corny yet self-aware monologue in typical Dolly fashion, she says “I’ve always wanted to do a duet with you, so, you can go first…right after me.” They then both launch into a prototypical performance of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but with a twist. When Dolly sings, you can hear Fallon in the background ad-libbing, almost as if it were a hip-hop song. They then join together and find an incredible harmony just before Jimmy Fallon’s solo. Taking the second verse, Dolly ad-libs behind his surprisingly-talented voice. Though the melody and tempo are similar to the original, Parton and Fallon are able to spice it up with their personalities.

Continuing with her list of famous duet partners, Parton teams up with Billie Ray Cyrus on “Christmas Where We Are.” Having more of a pop feel than her other songs on the record, this one is reminiscent of the early 2010’s “Bro-Country” craze. This song outlines the joy of Christmas no matter where one is—if it is spent with people with whom one cares about, Christmas will be fine right “where we are.” Cyrus’s verse and consistent harmonies help along the track.

In a stunning show of some of country music’s most prolific artists ever, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson take on Roy Orbison’s 1963 classic, “Pretty Paper.” Electing for a more traditional feel, chimes and horns are given up for a slowed down, classic country twang moved by sliding steel guitars and Nelson’s musical artifact, his guitar, Trigger. Nelson and Parton’s voices play back and forth, dancing unhurriedly on top of this classic Christmas melody.

A Holly Dolly Christmasis a mixture between classic Christmas nostalgia, new Christmas memories and a whole bunch of that Dolly Parton personality that pulls everyone who sees or hears her in. At the end of the day though, it is a Christmas album. While usually bland and played-out, Dolly is able to do what little she can—add her personality, make new songs and recruit other stars—with an idea that has run its course time after time. Because of these changes, she has made a Christmas album that ranks higher than most others.

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