Dolly Parton behind the leopardskin wheel of a leatherbound car, Dolly astride a Harley Davidson, Dolly in black vinyl wielding an electric guitar, Dolly with a sparkly eye patch, Dolly biting the head off a bat…okay, maybe not that last one…but as the various cover shots for her latest album attest, Parton is comfortable with the tools of the rock trade, or has become so since being nominated for Rock N Roll Hall of Fame last year.
The nomination was initially graciously turned down. If anyone knows herself, it’s Dolly Parton and, to paraphrase Donny and Marie Osmond, Dolly is a lot country and not at all rock’n’roll. But in choosing to accept and embrace her induction, the idea for this album germinated. And so, on Rockstar, Dolly does rock….her way. Which is to say, across a whopping thirty classic rock standards interspersed with a handful of her own tracks, and a stunning guest list of rock legends, from Paul McCartney to Stevie Nicks to Debbie Harry.
Proving she is as game as ever, she opens with a skit – Dolly determining her rock’n’roll fate – before unleashing a hefty holler on the title track. She remains relatively faithful to the material, from the hoary likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Seger to the bold choices – Prince, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen – where even Dolly can only ever hope to come off second best.
Along the way, she proves she can soft rock as effectively as Journey’s Steve Perry on Open Arms and has fun with the rock hoodoo of Heart’s Magic Man. Her voice and intuitive phrasing remain unmistakable. Her own material is largely disposable, although she does pomp up My Blue Tears from her Coat of Many Colors album with the help of fellow Hall of Fame nominee Simon Le Bon, while Lizzo’s fluttering flute on Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven is a curveball treat.