TVD Live Shots:
Dolly Parton at
Wolf Trap, 6/8

“Not sure who is going to wind up in the White House. I was thinking about running. I got the hair and we need more boobs in the race,” joked Dolly Parton on Wednesday to a sold out crowd at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center. Touring behind a new record Pure and Simple, out this summer, the show highlighted the pure talent of Parton against a simple stage setup, letting Parton in her rhinestone-studded outfits and talents be the visual on which the audience focused (“I never leave a rhinestone unturned,” she quipped).

The show was equal parts hoedown, comedy routine, church session, and fireside chat, with the show broken into two one-hour sets. In the first hour, Parton talked a lot about her family and the set list concentrated on traditional Americana songs, some from her new record and a couple of her early hits (“Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors”).

One very cool part of this set was to see the variety of instruments Parton could play: guitar, banjo, harmonica, saxophone, dulcimer, and tin whistle. Her band joined in the harmonies and an upright bass when she sang a medley of 1960s protest songs—”American Pie,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”—which she coined “a little piece of Americana” to round out the first half of the show.

The second set pulled from Parton’s more modern and collaborative life (complete with a costume change). “Everyone said I was making a mistake getting out of country, and for a bit, I thought they might be right. But then ‘Here You Come Again’ hit on the radio,” she said before playing the 1977 single. Parton talked about and played a few tracks from the collaborative albums she recorded with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt called Trio 1 and Trio 2. A collection of songs from these, and some of their unreleased tracks, will be in stores this September.

But the highlight for the audience, at least based on how much louder they were singing along, was when Parton played “Islands in the Stream,” the 1983 duet she sang with Kenny Rogers, as well as “9 to 5,” the title track from the 1980 movie of the same name in which she starred. She left her signature “I Will Always Love You” for last, dedicating it to the crowd and her fans. From the slow dancing couples on the lawn, to the massive sing-along in the tunnel to the parking lot after the show, it’s obvious this song still resonates wildly with fans.

It’s obvious that Parton resonates wildly too. Whether you appreciate or dislike country music, Parton is one of those who everyone loves regardless. From the number of “I LOVE YOU DOLLY” shouts heard throughout the night, to the couple of Dolly drag queens, to the large number of men, women, and little kids I saw wearing big blonde curly wigs, she remains a beloved icon.

As my friend, another noted alt-Americana fiddler, said about her, “Oh, how I love her. And also, oh I am glad I don’t have young daughters to whom I have to explain her. Honey, we love Dolly to the ends of the earth but we DO NOT strive to look like her, even though she is clearly the most beautiful creature in all god’s kingdom.”

More photos from the show can be seen here.

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