Dolly Parton – ‘Run, Rose, Run’ album review: a fun, easy-going romp with lashings of charm

The companion piece to Dolly's new novel may not surprise, but it sure knows how to have fun along the way

Dolly Parton has been so busy making Netflix content and helping to fund a Covid-19 vaccine that it’s sometimes easy to forget her day job as one of the great singer-songwriters. Then again, at this stage in her remarkable career, Parton is such a hardened multi-tasker that ‘Run, Rose, Run’ isn’t just her 48th studio album. Naturally, it’s also a companion piece to a novel she has co-written with mega-selling author James Patterson.

According to publishers Little, Brown and Company, the novel is a “thriller about a young singer-songwriter on the rise and on the run,” and this familiar premise definitely informs this album’s lyrics. The jaunty opening song, which sounds a bit like Parton’s classic 1970 single ‘Joshua’, is literally called ‘Run’. At the same time, many of these vignettes are sketched broadly enough to slot comfortably into Parton’s own story – or to be more accurate, her own immaculately honed mythology. When she sings “Just my ol’ guitar and me / Out to find my destiny” on ‘Big Dreams and Faded Jeans’, it’s easy to picture a teenage Dolly pitching up in Nashville to try her luck as a songwriter. Spoiler: she made it.

Though the album has a couple of giddy bluegrass romps, ‘Firecracker’ and ‘Dark Night, Bright Future’, Parton mainly cleaves to glossy country-pop. Nothing is as thrillingly kitsch as her 1978 country-disco banger ‘Baby I’m Burnin’, but Parton and co-producers Richard Dennison and Tom Rutledge can’t resist a few cheesy flourishes. ‘Snakes in the Grass’, a song that’s presumably about the Nashville bigwigs Parton never let outsmart her, ratchets up the melodrama with a very on-the-nose rattlesnake sound effect. “They strike in a flash, so you better watch your ass!” Parton sings with a hiss.

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If Parton is very much in her comfort zone here, that’s really part of the fun. ‘Demons’ is a wistful duet with Ben Haggard, son of late country legend Merle, her former touring partner Merle. ‘Lost and Found’ contains a nod to ‘Amazing Grace’, a song Parton has covered in the past. The friendly feminist album ‘Woman Up (And Take It Like a Man)’ sounds exactly like you think it does. It all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable listen that confirms what fans already know: even a middle-of-the-road Dolly Parton album has lashings of charm.

DETAILS

Release date: March 4

Record label: Butterfly

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