The name of Dolly Parton’s latest tour matches that of her latest album – Pure & Simple. Wednesday night (Nov. 16) in Huntsville, Alabama, the Country Music Hall of Fame member lived up to that description – and a whole lot more.
There wasn’t a lot of pyrotechnics, smoke, or set changes – and there was only one wardrobe change for the entertainment legend, but the East Tennessee native didn’t need any of those things. She brought the stories and the music for the sold-out crowd – along with her natural down-home charm.
Broken up in two pieces, the first part of the evening focused on Parton’s roots, as she shared stories of her mother, father, and grandfather. Among the classics she performed included “Jolene,” (of which she shared the story of how she came to pen the classic – of husband Carl’s apparent infatuation with a bank teller early in their marriage), “In My Tennessee Mountain Home,” and the 1971 classic “Coat Of Many Colors.” In performing the latter, Parton spoke of the highly-rated NBC TV-movie from last year, and previewed the upcoming sequel, Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle of Love, which will air on the network on November 30. After she performed the song written about the coat her mother lovingly prepared for her, she then gave her father equal time with the moving “Smoky Mountain Memories,” which was one of the definite highlights of the night. She also brought out the story of “Applejack” for the fans, before delivering a solid medley of classic 60s and 70s fare as “American Pie,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” and the Joan Baez standard “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” She then talked about her philosophy of right and wrong. “I’ve always considered myself to be too good to be bad….and too bad to be good,” she quipped before reaching back for her 1975 anthem “The Seeker,” ending the first part of the show with a rousing spin through “I’ll Fly Away.”
After a twenty-minute intermission, the audience at the Von Braun Center was dealt a heaping helping of some of Parton’s biggest hits, such as 1977’s “Here You Come Again,” the song that helped to make her one of the few musical performers – male or female – to be known simply by her first name. She and her bandmates paid tribute to her work with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris with “Those Memories Of You” and “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” and she gave fans a taste of her recent chart-topping album with the sensual “Outside Your Door.” As with any great entertainer, she saved her biggest aces for last – “Islands In The Stream” and “9 To 5” – her two singles to top the Hot 100 on the Billboard chart received exactly the raucous response one would expect, and she brought the house down with her signature song, “I Will Always Love You.” Coming back on stage for one more song, she chose “Hello God” from her vast catalog – a song that, in this topsy-turvy time we live in – makes more sense than ever.
As fans drifted out into the cool Alabama air, one thing was for certain – they had witnessed perhaps the greatest singer-songwriter in Country Music history delivering a no-frills show that kept the focus on what has made her an undeniable legend – the music, which was pure and simple….indeed!