The ubiquitous admiration for Dolly Parton is essentially unmatched by any superstar who has ever been (and probably will ever be). From her one million dollar donation to the research that produced the Moderna vaccine to refusing the Tennessee capitol displaying a statue of herself, Parton is the definition of a class act.
At age 76, Parton is one of the few musicians of her era whose announcement of a new record doesn’t induce cringes. Rather, the country music star has miraculously held onto her genius-level songwriting prowess that brought her fame in the first place. As a result — over half a century since her entrance onto the music scene — the March 7 release of her album Run, Rose, Run was met with excitement from young and old alike.
Accompanied by a homonymous novel written by thriller novelist James Patterson and Parton herself, the record carries listeners through the trials and tribulations of love and speaks to the hardships of being a woman within the music industry. With harmonicas, slide guitars, mandolins and banjos galore, the LP seeps in the old country ethos of pairing entrancing melodies with gripping narratives.
Kicking off the album is “Run,” an upbeat, fiddle-forward song about sticking to one’s guns and trampling over the face of adversity. Parton’s voice shines, in both moments of pure belting and quiet giggles scattered throughout the play. Singing “You want to keep the hounds at bay/ Don’t give up, you’ll find a way/ Refuse to be controlled by anyone,” the uplifting spirit of Parton’s vocals and lyricism is bound to put smiles on listeners’ faces.
The following track “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans” tells another quintessentially country story of overcoming hardship. Similar in theme to “Run,” the lyrics “Don’t know quite what to expect/ A little scared, but what the heck/ My desire is always greater than my fear” put Parton’s own ambitions on full display. Featuring a delightful harmonica solo in the bridge as well as a church choir backing Parton, the song effortlessly pulls the listener into the world of Dolly.
Similarly uplifting is the snappy song “Woman Up (And Take It Like a Man).” The witty track features a twangy electric guitar and perfectly represents the archetypal Dolly Parton outlook on life. Over a bouncy instrumental, Parton sings the catchy chorus: “I’m gonna woman up and take it like a man/ I’m gonna buckle up, be tough enough/ To take control and make demands.” With another outstanding vocal performance in addition to lyrics reminiscent of her 1968 hit “Just Because I’m a Woman,” the song is a clear standout of the album’s already impressive track list.
While each song on the LP is a worthwhile listen, “Driven” is by far the best out of the array. Dolly sings that she’s “Driven to insanity, driven to the edge/ Driven to the point of almost no return,” leaving her audiences no choice but to think “Me too, Dolly … me too.” Uptempo and incredibly heartfelt, Parton’s unbelievable voice guides listeners through the effort it takes to make it as a woman in Nashville’s music scene. Later singing “Driven to be smarter/ Driven to work harder/ Driven to be better everyday,” Parton flips her previous anecdote of self-deprecation into one of pride and motivation, leaving listeners eager for what else the record has in store.
Looking beyond Parton’s iconic stance within the realms of country music and pop culture, Run, Rose, Run is an objectively wonderful album. Unquestionably easy to listen to, Parton’s voice has aged beautifully and the album’s effortlessly appealing production only spotlights her long-lived talents. Audiences would be amiss to not give the album a listen, and the record only further cements Parton as country music’s number one superstar — not to say that she needed any more cementing to begin with.