It’s no surprise that Dolly Parton could make a fine album of acoustic string band music; the wonder is that it’s taken her so long to get to it. on this superb, beautifully recorded outing she fronts a stellar acoustic group consisting of Jerry Douglas on dobro, Sam Bush on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Bryan Sutton on guitar, Jim Mills on banjo and Barry Bales on bass; Alison Krauss is among those helping out on harmony vocals. The repertoire comes from all over: There’s a Lester Flatt tune (“I’m Gonna Sleep With one Eye open”) and venerable songs by the Louvin Brothers (“Cash on the Barrelhead”) and Hazel Dickens (“A Few old Memories”). She tackles the ageless and still mysterious mountain ballad “Silver Dagger” (popularized by the Callahan Brothers in the ’30s), and also a Billy Joel song, the lovely “Travelin’ Prayer.” Interspersed are a handful of excellent Parton originals, including the title tune and the affecting “Endless Stream of Tears.” With its mixture of bluegrass instrumentation and old-time harmonies, the CD is a wonderful throwback to simpler times in country music; indeed, to Parton’s own East Tennessee roots. Still, most of these songs pack an emotional wallop that makes this project as vital and “contemporary” as anything else coming out Nashville today.
Producer: Steve Buckingham. Engineer: Gary Paczosa (additional engineering by Toby Seay and Chuck Turner). Studios: The Sound Kitchen and The Doghouse (both in Nashville). Mastering: Doug Sax/The Mastering Lab (L.A.)