Dolly Parton was a fireball of energy when she called for a quick 10-minute chat about her forthcoming album, “Blue Smoke,” and the companion tour that takes her to Australia in February and then across Europe next summer, with some U.S. dates along the way.
“I can talk fast, so we can cover a lot of ground,” she said out of the gate, sounding fine despite the minor traffic accident in which she was involved in Nashville on Monday. ("I was in a fender bender this morning, here in Nashville," she told fans in a Twitter posting. "But I am all good. Just a little tired and sore, resting at home.")
Up first, we delved into the album, which she’s releasing early next year in Australia to coincide with her visit to the country, and then a few months later in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The title reflects the character of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee where she grew up, and the tone to an extent harks back to the rootsy, back-to-basics albums she put out at the turn of the 21st century, “The Grass Is Blue,” which collected her a Grammy Award for bluegrass album, and its successor, “Little Sparrow.”
“This tends to have more of the bluegrass-country flavor,” the 67-year-old singer-songwriter-actress said. “We used all the bluegrass instruments. One of the reasons I called it ‘Blue Smoke’ is that it has a tinge of the bluegrass of the Smoky Mountains -- a mountain music flavor. The ‘Blue Smoke’ song is about a heartbreak train called Blue Smoke.”
The majority of the songs are her own, but she said she’s recorded versions of Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” to round out the collection.
Of the Bon Jovi song, she said, “I kinda countrfied it, the way I do. I did it with more of a gospel flavor and added some new words. When I first heard that, I thought, ‘Man, what a great title.’ It has a great feel, gospel sound and that message of ‘lay your hands on me’ for people who believe in prayer, it’s a good, uplifting song. It’s going to be a nice tune for our concerts. And I did ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,’ which has always been a favorite of mine. That turned out very nice in a country-bluegrassy way.”
She’s making a quick jaunt out west in January, for some dates in Arizona, Nevada and a Southern California stop Jan. 24 at the Agua Caliente Resort and Casino in Rancho Mirage. Her more extensive U.S. tour run in May is still to be announced.
While she’s in Australia, she will also deeply be involved in rolling out her Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, funded by her Dollywood Foundation, that puts free books into the hands of preschool children.
United Way has joined with the program to expand it world-wide, and “They’re doing amazing things,” she said. “Every day, something new happens, and they’re getting more books into the hands of more children.”
After dropping in a good word about her 30-year-old Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., at which an accompanying resort is being built -- “that’s new and exciting” -- she was ready to move on before we could discuss her appearance as herself in the Lifetime movie “A Country Christmas Story,” which premieres Nov. 9.
“Mostly, we’re promoting the new CD and the world tour, and with the Imagination Library and Dollywood,” she said with her signature squeaky laugh, “that oughta be enough for a simple country girl.”
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