It's almost a given for veteran singers to dust off the American songbook and cut an album of standards. But Dolly Parton does them one better on "Those Were the Days." Not only does she put a country spin on songs such as "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Crimson and Clover" and "Me and Bobby McGee," she gets some of the artists who wrote or popularized the originals to join her. Roger McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), Keith Urban, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Judy Collins and many others lend their talents.
..."This record I didn't write any of the songs," she says. "I thought, well, I ought to just maybe make the next one all songs I'd written, and I thought what should I call that one — I'll call it `Let Me Compose Myself.' That would be a good title."
...Islam sang and played guitar on his "Where Do the Children Play," then decided against the vocal parts. "He did do a vocal just for me that I'll keep for myself and that I'll always treasure," Parton says. "But he just felt that it was in the wrong key and that he wasn't really complementing it. And he said — probably to flatter me — he did love my version and said every time he came in it was more distracting than adding to it."
..."I'm certainly not into any kind of political thing or protest. People who know me will know I've chosen these songs to really kind of uplift and to give hope, like they were written for at the time," she says.
..."I just felt it was good time to bring a lot of these songs back," she says. "We don't want to be at war, but of course we have to fight if we have to. We don't want to lose our children in war, but of course we do. So we write about it and sing about it, and it kind of helps us relieve our grief and express ourselves."
The '60s theme extends to her current tour, billed as the Vintage Tour. She's performing a half-dozen songs from the new album (due out Oct. 11) as well as her own hits. She dresses in bell bottoms and headbands and pokes fun at the era, cracking, "We went from taking acid to taking antacid" and "We went from BYOB to AARP."
..."The people that really have followed me and that really do look closer and look underneath the big hair and big boobs and big mouth — the artificial look — they really know I'm a serious person about my work and am serious about my songwriting more than anything," she says. "It's the songs that brought me out of the Smokies. It's the songs that started it all."
She is the best. Courtney Love should be made to stay with her 28 days instead of at a rehab center. It would do her more good, I think. I know I wouldn't want to let Dolly down.