Dolly Parton is a hero of mine. She is a trailblazing singer songwriter who took on gender rights and violence towards women at a time where such songs were banned from radio play. She is straight talking, empathetic, financially brilliant, strong and self – assured. She believes in family, gay rights, Black Lives Matter, gender equality, calling out men’s violence towards women and country music. Having said that, her new record A Holly Dolly Christmas is not a great record. In truth, I can’t even say that it is a good record. However, at 74 there are glimpses of what made Dolly so powerful and engaging ever since her debut record Hello, I’m Dolly in 1967. These glimpses are like diamonds amidst a sea of dirt, difficult to find, but precious and worth looking for.
One such track is Comin’ Home For Christmas. Musically, there is nothing too Earth shattering about this track. It is your cookie cutter Christmas sleigh bells, smooth jazz percussion with a dash of bluegrass acoustic guitar and fiddle. The arrangement of this track is a paint by numbers Christmas track. Nothing too out there and something that will drift into the background as you slam Egg Nog and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.
However, it is Dolly’s vocals that really has me hooked on a track that should be getting a big lump of coal in its stocking. At times, this track reminds you of the warm and melodic vocals of When Someone Wants to Leave, which is a deep cut off of the seismic record Jolene in 1974. Dolly sings about going home to the south for Christmas and the images one associates with her country upbringing. Essentially, this is the Christmas version of My Tennessee Mountain Home with references to chopping wood, mama in the kitchen and papa’s overcoat. This is a well worn road for Dolly; however, it never gets old. Such “down home” lyrics are almost romantic and idyllic, which is an oasis during the chaotic times we currently live in. Where this track really shines is in the chorus. Lyrically the chorus is your average Christmas song fare with references to candles, leaving a light on for her and the tree. Vocally, the chorus acts a a time machine back to the 70s where Dolly’s passionate and welcoming vocals transport you to a warm sunset. When her vocals hit, you forget that you are listening to a 74 year old country music and cultural icon and feel like you are with an old friend. Her vocals on the chorus are both welcoming and healing, which is the nurturing core of the track.
In a vacuum, Dolly’s track Comin’ Home for Christmas is not her best work. However, it is incredible that at 74 she can vocally deliver on the chorus in such a way that has the emotional depth that made her so approachable. I love Dolly Parton and the chorus of this song is enough to sell me and keep me coming back. This track has me thinking of what to add to my Christmas list, which is for Dolly to put out a bluegrass / country record reminiscent of her iconic work in the 70s. At 74 she still has the emotional hook and vocal skill to deliver another classic country album. I hope that I am on Santa’s nice list and he delivers a new Dolly country record under the tree.
Listen to Comin’ Home for Christmas