Dolly Parton, the 70-year-old multifaceted entertainer, is a national treasure and one of those rare celebrities that everyone seems to love. I’ve had an infatuation with her since I was a little boy. I used to put nerf balls in my shirt, don a wig, and sing “Two Doors Down” into my Mister Microphone, entertaining my parens and their friends. I’ve seen her several times in concert, and this year, my dream of meeting the international icon came true during her Pure & Simple Tour.
Dolly brings her boundless energy to stages in over 60 cities as she embarks on her first major U.S. and Canadian tour in more than 25 years. For the last 20 years, she has only played select dates in the U.S., but her 2016 tour covers cities across North America.
In what has been one of the summer’s most sought-out concerts, Dolly performs her hit songs all while weaving in a few new songs from her new double-disc album “Pure & Simple with Dolly’s Biggest Hits.” She delights fans by playing songs they have not heard live for decades.
Dolly said, “We’re so excited to get out there and see the fans again. I’m really looking forward to singing songs the fans have not heard in a while, as well as the hits, while debuting a few new ones off Pure & Simple.”
“Pure & Simple with Dolly’s Biggest Hits” 2-CD set will include all new material as well as a compilation of Dolly’s biggest hits. Dolly officially announced the details of her Aug. 19 release, Pure & Simple, revealing it will be released under a new joint venture of Dolly Records and RCA Nashville, marking her return to the label she called home from for nearly 20 years.
In a press release, Dolly noted: “I may not be pure, but I’m as simple as they come! This new Pure & Simple project is really special to me because I’m taking my fans back to my roots. I feel like these songs have a pure, tender side and we didn’t go overboard with arrangements. I’m so glad we’ve teamed up with our friends at Sony to get this album out to the fans.”
Doug Morris, CEO of RCA parent company Sony Music Entertainment, said in the press release: “Dolly Parton is a national treasure and an iconic singer/songwriter. We are thrilled to be expanding our successful relationship with her through this new global agreement. We are very proud to call her a member of the Sony Music family.” Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Randy Goodman added: “This is a special reunion for Dolly, RCA Nashville and for me personally. Our entire Sony Music Nashville team is elated. We have a firm foundation of Dolly’s incredible catalog of hits on RCA Nashville as well as Columbia Nashville.” (Sony Music owns Monument Records – where Dolly recorded 1965-67, RCA – where she was 1968-86, and Columbia – where she was under contract 1987-96; basically covering her career recordings from 1965 through 1996 except for her Trio project with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on Warner Brothers in 1987.) The press release also provided the album’s cover art and the track listing:
Pure and Simple
Say Forever You’ll Be Mine
Never Not Love You
Kiss It (And Make It All Better)
Can’t Be That Wrong
Outside Your Door
Tomorrow Is Forever
Head Over High Heels
The British version of the announcement noted that the album there will be paired with a live CD from her 2014 Glastonbury Festival headlining concert, although it was unclear whether that companion CD will be available in the U.S. The U.K. edition of The Huffington Post premiered a lyric video of the album’s title track. Multiple media outlets reported on the news repeating the details of the press release, with the only one that added new information being Billboard that noted her most recent release, Blue Smoke, has sold 88,000 units in the U.S. since its release in 2014 on Dolly Records and Sony’s Masterworks imprint. (By comparison, the album has sold about 400,000 copies in Great Britain.) The publication explained that since the SoundScan era began in 1991, Dolly has sold 9.25 million albums in the U.S. and since they began tracking individual U.S. song downloads in 2003 she has sold 3.3 million tracks on top of the album sales. They added that in the first six and a half months of this year alone, she has sold 53,000 albums from her various catalog titles and 123,000 individual song downloads.
While the American version of Pure & Simple on iTunes is a single-disc edition, the double-disc set will be a Walmart exclusive stateside and will offer her greatest hits in addition to the new material.
The Country Music Hall of Famer is on one of the biggest hot streaks of her career after her hugely successful TV movie, “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” attracted a network record of 15.8 million viewers making it the most-watched movie on network TV in more than six years. “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” was released on DVD on May 3. Disappointingly, however, the movie did not receive any Emmy nominations.
Coming off the phenomenal performance of last year’s holiday special and looking to recapture the enthusiasm of the nearly 16 million viewers who tuned in, NBC is announcing the sequel “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.”
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” is the next chapter in the life of young Dolly Parton. The film delivers Christmas joy and peril as an unexpected blizzard threatens the Parton family while at the same time Dolly’s father (and his kids) make sacrifices to raise enough money to finally buy his loving wife the wedding ring he could never afford to give her. Meanwhile, an important person in little Dolly’s life begins to see that her amazing voice and musical gift might just be made for something bigger than rural Tennessee.
The original cast will return for the sequel: Jennifer Nettles as Avie Lee Parton, Ricky Schroder as Robert Lee Parton, Gerald McRaney as Rev. Jake Owens and Alyvia Alyn Lind as young Dolly Parton. Other members of the cast, as well as a premiere date, will be announced in the coming months. Dolly announced from the stage of one her shows that she will be playing the town tramp, after whom she modeled her trademark look.
“I was so overwhelmed and touched by how many people watched ‘Coat of Many Colors’ and their reaction to it. The song ‘Coat of Many Colors,’ of course, has always been my favorite and has touched so many people through the years, especially me. It is a true story from a very special time in my childhood. I am so happy to share this story with the viewers and to say there is so much more to tell because mine truly has been a life of many colors. I hope the viewers will fall in love all over again,” said Dolly.
I caught the superstar twice during the tour—once at the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield, OH—outside of Cleveland—and again at Caesars Windsor in Canada. The show is a lightning bolt of energy peppered with down-home country tales of Dolly’s humble upbringing in the Smoky Mountains and topped with a heaping helping of comedy. The chatter-box spends plenty of time gettin’ homey in between songs which include the plethora of hits from county to pop and back again, along with two singles off the new album, the title track and “Outside Your Door.” She also plays many instruments, including acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, saxophone, piano and harmonica, and the show features one intermission and costume change. The performance lasts about two hours with intermission. Even the instruments are bedazzled, and as Dolly says, “I never leave a rhinestone unturned.”
In Cleveland, I arrived early to meet Dolly’s niece, the delightful and beautiful, Hannah Denison, whose smile is infectious just like her Aunt’s. Hannah fell in love with my two tiny Yorkies, LuLu and Spike and many of the VIP guests requested to have their photos taken with Hannah and my pups. The VIP reception featured hors d’oeuvres, dessert and a cash bar, along with about two-dozen, life-sized cardboard cutouts of Dolly.
A special touring museum features Dolly’s costumes from movies, tours and photo shoots, along with instruments. After touring the museum, I made my way to meet the legend in person. We were escorted into a small room with a step and repeat, bright lights and professional photographer. My heart was beating as the doors swung open and a couple of huge security guards entered, behind whom you could see a tiny puff of platinum blond hair. The security guards parted to reveal the tiny Dolly Parton teetering on high heels, bedecked with rhinestones, sheer material and white, shiny satin framing her famous cleavage. Her hair piled high on top of her head, she seemed to illuminate from the inside out—angelic, indeed.
Before greeting any of the human guests, Parton saw Hannah with my two dogs, and said, “It didn’t take you long to find critters!” As I made my way through the photograph line, I handed her a bouquet of sunflowers and thanked her for making my lifelong dream come true. She let me hold her hand for a photo and then asked me, “You want your babies in here, too, dontcha?” So, Hannah popped in with LuLu and Spike for a precious, group photo. This was the best night of my life!
Dolly asked, “Are they coming to the show, too?” I responded, “Yes, we will be in the front row singing ‘Two Doors Down,’”and this seemed to delight her as she giggled. Dolly’s team is so thoughtful and friendly. When they saw I was seated in the front row of the concert hall next to a large speaker, they expressed concern for my dogs’ ears. This was no problem for Hannah who took the babies backstage to frolic and play in Dolly’s dressing room for the duration of the show, returning them to me following the encore. If only they had been suited with go-pro cameras, or if they could talk—what stories they could tell.
Once was not enough to see this fantastic show, so I also purchased a second-row center seat for the performance at Caesars Windsor, in Canada– just across the river from Detroit. The show in Cleveland was better for several reason. There is no hassle of border-crossing and trying to navigate without the iPhone gps working well in Canadian communication channels. The staging was better in Cleveland and well as the crowd. Overall, the show is worth seeing but I would think twice about making the trek to Windsor—I didn’t get home till after 1:00 a.m. With the border-crossing and highway construction. Perhaps if one travels to Windsor for a show, it would be better to spend the night at Caesars’ Hotel.