Parton’s 43rd(!) album is just what you would expect from a Dolly Parton album named Pure and Simple. This album is a delight. It includes a few old songs and a few songs written to celebrate her fiftieth wedding anniversary with her husband. Parton uses scaled back arrangements that highlight both her voice (still going strong at age 70) and the beauty of the songs.
“Say Forever You’ll Be Mine,” for example, is a song that Parton wrote for one of her duet albums with Porter Wagoner in 1975. The original was smothered in the kind of country music production that was prominent in the 70s. But the new version is stripped of all the schlock and reveals a beautiful song. In the context of a set of songs sung to her husband, it comes across as a much more honest and heartfelt song than it did 40 years ago.
There are a few places where the album doesn’t work as well (like “I’m Sixteen”) but the other songs, like the title track and the beautiful “Forever Love,” where Parton is backed by only an acoustic guitar and string quartet, more than make up for it. (RCA)