Reviews for Dolly Parton, Songteller

by Dolly Parton with Robert K Oermann

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A hefty retrospective on the six-decade career of a country music superstar who tells stories in song. Parton has been mining her East Tennessee roots for crowd-pleasing songs ever since she wrote her first tune, about a corncob doll, at around the age of 6. With Nashville-based music journalist Oermann, she serves up her highest-grade ore in a handsomely produced collection of the lyrics to more than 175 of her songs, some in print for the first time. All songs have brief introductions on topics such as when and how Parton wrote them, and longer pieces show her evolution from “a hard-core country artist” with a “girlish soprano tremolo” to a multifaceted star also at ease with pop, gospel, and bluegrass. Moving chronologically through the artist’s life, the book reveals her abiding passions with thematic juxtapositions of songs, which range from “9 to 5” to the elegiac ballads “Jolene” (her song “most performed by others”) and “I Will Always Love You” (“For what she did with that, I will always love you, Whitney Houston”). Hundreds of color and black-and-white photos of Parton and others display her over-the-top tastes in fashion and wigs faithful to her motto: “Leave no rhinestone unturned.” Parton conceals more than she reveals about her 50-plus-year marriage to the reclusive Carl Dean and whether she’s had affairs (“Well, I don’t admit or deny anything”). She is frank, however, about professional setbacks. For example, when she was starting out in the industry, every major record company on Nashville’s Music Row turned her down as a vocalist. In the final pages, Parton sounds a poignant note in the lyrics to a song written with Kent Wells and released during the pandemic. The song, “When Life Is Good Again,” is the hymnlike lament of a repentant sinner who vows to change “when life is good again." A splashy, entertaining guide to the lyrics of one of the most popular musicians of our time. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A hefty retrospective on the six-decade career of a country music superstar who tells stories in song. Parton has been mining her East Tennessee roots for crowd-pleasing songs ever since she wrote her first tune, about a corncob doll, at around the age of 6. With Nashville-based music journalist Oermann, she serves up her highest-grade ore in a handsomely produced collection of the lyrics to more than 175 of her songs, some in print for the first time. All songs have brief introductions on topics such as when and how Parton wrote them, and longer pieces show her evolution from a hard-core country artist with a girlish soprano tremolo to a multifaceted star also at ease with pop, gospel, and bluegrass. Moving chronologically through the artists life, the book reveals her abiding passions with thematic juxtapositions of songs, which range from 9 to 5 to the elegiac ballads Jolene (her song most performed by others) and I Will Always Love You (For what she did with that, I will always love you, Whitney Houston). Hundreds of color and black-and-white photos of Parton and others display her over-the-top tastes in fashion and wigs faithful to her motto: Leave no rhinestone unturned. Parton conceals more than she reveals about her 50-plus-year marriage to the reclusive Carl Dean and whether shes had affairs (Well, I dont admit or deny anything). She is frank, however, about professional setbacks. For example, when she was starting out in the industry, every major record company on Nashvilles Music Row turned her down as a vocalist. In the final pages, Parton sounds a poignant note in the lyrics to a song written with Kent Wells and released during the pandemic. The song, When Life Is Good Again, is the hymnlike lament of a repentant sinner who vows to change when life is good again." A splashy, entertaining guide to the lyrics of one of the most popular musicians of our time. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Cowritten by music journalist Oermann, this annotated collection of Parton's song lyrics is highlighted by commentary from the artist and photographs from every stage of her career, from her childhood in the Tennessee mountains to the rhinestone-studded glamour of country-music stardom. Though Parton has been the subject of much biographical, critical, and musicological commentary of late, this one stands out for its keen insights from the songwriter herself. Indeed, Songteller is an appropriate title, for Parton is as much a storyteller as she is a musician, and the title has a dual meaning: Parton's songs tell stories, and in this book she tells stories about her songs. Though not a biography in the strictest sense—1994's My Life and Other Unfinished Business is that, though obviously dated—the book is organized biographically as well as thematically, taking the reader from Parton's earliest attempts at lyric-writing to her response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, it's clear that Parton understands both the sheer power of music and her own considerable gifts as a songwriter, performer, storyteller, and collaborator. And the work is just plain heartening. One could do worse to cue up a Spotify playlist and curl up in a comfortable chair with a mug of tea and this book. VERDICT Heartwarming and insightful in equal measure. For Parton fans.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Working with music journalist Oermann, Parton here assembles the lyrics to 175 of her songs (from the roughly three thousand she has written). Beginning with a song she wrote at age six, addressed to a beloved corncob doll, the volume follows the singer-songwriter through a career in country music that started in earnest when she was in her teens, through sidetracks into pop music and movies, and returned to her bluegrass roots. Rather than stick to a strictly chronological approach, the book groups Parton's lyrics by subject matter, so a later-career song might appear in a chapter on her early life or family history. Each of the lyrics is preceded by a couple sentences of context provided by Oermann and notes on the song from Parton, many of which showcase her wry sense of humor, as when she remarks, “I've killed a lot of puppies and kids and ladies in my songs.” Copiously illustrated with pictures of Parton, her costumes, lyric sheets, and other memorabilia, this is a sweet treat for the artist's many fans.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020

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