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Dolly Parton - Rockstar (Album Review)

Tuesday, 21 November 2023 Written by Jack Press

Being the Queen of Country is, apparently, not enough for Dolly Parton. Following her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, she has set out to earn her stripes in that grizzled arena with ‘Rockstar’, a 30 song behemoth of a record that combines covers and a handful of originals performed alongside megawatt guest stars.

Like a piece of toast slathered in Marmite, ‘Rockstar’ will either inspire unbridled joy or invoke a feeling of sheer disgust. Parton’s cover choices — Every Breath You Take nextdoor to (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and Wrecking Ball — read like a holiday park’s karaoke selection, and they sound like it, too. 

Rather than delivering the electrifying intensity of whiskey-infused rock ‘n’ roll, Parton reduced almost every song to weak, watered-down beer.

The Joan Jett-featuring I Hate Myself For Loving You is a guilty pleasure in waiting, but a lacklustre Purple Rain pales in comparison to its original despite Parton sounding as good as ever.

‘Rockstar’, then, is less about rebellion than it is a long-form red carpet rollout for a who’s who of rock in its loosest form. Parton has the gravitational pull to get Beatles and members of Fleetwood Mac together for a run through Let It Be, while there is a feverish sort of fun in hearing her duet with powerhouse vocalists such as Elton John, Stevie Nicks, and Sting.

It’s not all covers, and it’s not all bad. Parton’s songwriting is almost as strong on solo album 49 as it was on album one, and it’s a shame there aren’t more originals here. The title track’s fuzzy riffs stomp-and-roll between catchy southern-rock and Twisted Sister-esque pop-metal attitude, while the ‘Coat of Many Colors’-era classic My Blue Tears gets a fresh lick of paint from Simon Le Bon. 

It’s Bygones, though, that rocks in the most obvious sense, bringing heavy metal royalty together as Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx and John 5 step in. ‘Rockstar’ is pure indulgence from Dolly and, whether you’re here for endless karaoke inspiration, or to roll your eyes at her scraping the rock ‘n’ roll barrel, it’s one wild ride.

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