Whether you like it or not, there is no denying that Dolly Parton is an icon. Her impact on country music will be everlasting. Anyone who claims to have never enjoyed dancing to the thrillingly cheesy tones of ‘9 to 5’ on full volume is 100% lying. She once said “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap,” and sure enough, her platinum locks, love of denim and sizeable assets will forever make her the face of the genre. But with Blue Smoke marking the 42nd release by the Tennessee musician, it’s inevitable that not everything Dolly does is golden. In other words, Blue Smoke is bad. Very, very bad.
Maybe Dollywood is running out of funds, or maybe the star needs some more botox. In any case, it feels as though Ms Parton’s latest release has come, not from the heart, but more financial requirements. Imagine: an intelligent monkey has been given a keyboard that perfectly assembles country songs when you press buttons that provide the ingredients, that’s Blue Smoke: completely devoid of creativity, or originality. You can forget about hearing any of the classic “songwriting Dolly delivered in her heyday. As I listen to the album to write this review, the friend sitting next to me asks, thirty minutes in, whether I’ve been playing the same Dolly Parton track in a loop. He even missed the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ amidst the swirl of country commercialism that coats each track.
‘Lover du Jour’ is an especially low point. Dolly sings addresses a “luhvurh boy”, and maintains she “is naht for yourh amoosement!” She insists that she is not a “starter” or “after dinner drink,” but the real deal; a filet mignon rather than prawn cocktail, so to speak. She even attempts to speak some “frayunch” herself, but reveals in a giggly vocal message as the music peters out that her “frayunch is oarfuhl,” but her “lurve iyus oarsuhm!” Christ.
But there is no denying that ‘Lover du Jour’, though awful, is fun. And does Dolly Parton really try to be anything else? Granted, Blue Smoke is not a musical masterpiece or instant classic: there is no ‘Islands in the Stream’, or ‘Jolene’ and God knows, there is definitely no ‘I Will Always Love You’. But it is sort of enjoyable (in limited doses), if nothing else, as something to laugh at, not with.