When Dolly Parton's last two albums, The Grass Is Blue and Little Sparrow, came out on the highly reputable Americana label Sugar Hill Records, many people were a little surprised.
While Dolly had certainly earned a reputation for being a credible artist over the years — through killer songs like "Coat Of Many Colours" and, like it or not, "I Will Always Love You" — she had also become a bit, well, cartoonish over the years.
The wigs, the make-up, Dollywood, movies like 9 To 5, that TV variety show she hosted and countless big boob jokes that were prevalent throughout the '80s didn't do a whole lot to create a public image of integrity and seriousness for Dolly. But that last couple of albums (not to mention the ever-growing popularity of alt.bluegrass music) changed a lot of people's opinions of Ms. Dolly.
Sure, Little Sparrow included a horrifying cover of a Collective Soul song ("Shine"), but Dolly's down-home, stripped-down bluegrass songs were fantastic. Now she's joined up with Sugar Hill to do it all over again. Dolly's new album, Halos & Horns, will be released on July 9.
The record will have her now regular mix of bluegrass tunes, the odd gospel number, a September 11 song (it's called "Hello God" — we'll ignore that one) and of course, weird covers. This time Dolly takes on Bread's "If" and (get ready for this) Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven."
Yes, Dolly Parton is covering "Stairway To Heaven."
Dolly had the following to say about the song: "Well, I'm the only person to have the nerve to deal with classics. That's why I took it, ad-libbed it and made it more spiritual. I didn't do it just for the gimmick — my love for the song comes from a very real place. It's not just about making it work — it's about it really being a part of you."
According to Parton, she was sure to ask for the blessing of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who were seemingly thrilled to have their song covered by the blonde backwoods bombshell.
"Any time you make a change in lyrics or in my case, ad-libs, you have to get an OK from the writers and the publisher," Dolly says. "I was scared to death to send it to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. They sent word back that it was fine and they loved it. In fact, Robert Plant said he'd always thought of it as a spiritual song and he was thrilled we'd used a choir on it, because he thought about that, too. If they like it, that's the most important to me. But I do hope the public will accept it too. I even hope they love it."
Aw. If you're dying to hear the gospel-bluegrass version of the Led Zeppelin classic that ended many a junior high school dance, the Sugar Hill website is releasing an online version of a new Dolly song every week until Halos & Horns comes out.