A Dolly Parton Christmas album seems like a natural, as Parton oftentimes comes off like a child inside an adult's body. Parton was able to rope both famous Cyruses (Miley and Billy Ray) as well Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson and Michael Bublé to sing with her. Perhaps, best of all, Parton had a hand in writing half of these dozen songs.
Parton sounds great throughout, and into her 70s, her voice has lost none of its power. Sonically, Parton also isn't shy about infusing her holiday music with distinctly country elements. The lighthearted "Christmas On The Square," one she wrote alone, prominently features fiddle and banjo. Having her brother, Randy Parton, duet with her on "You Are My Christmas," gives the project a family feel.
Of the covers, Parton is perfectly cast to sing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," while Fallon and Parton actually make "All I Want For Christmas" sound fresh. "Mary, Did You Know" may not be the most theologically correct Christmas song (Mary most certainly knew what was going to happen because she was informed about the Savior's birth in a prophecy), but Parton sings it with such sincerity, even it sounds good here. Parton saves the sadness for "Pretty Paper," where she's joined by Nelson. His timeworn voice is no match for Dolly's on this one, but his familiar acoustic guitar comes through loud and clear in the mix.
Thankfully, there isn't a whole lot of tears shed during these performances. This is mostly a fun - and sometimes funny - collection of joyous Christmas music. Parton gets seriously spiritual on "Circle of Love," a relatively stripped-down gospel song. It is a fine new Christmas song. We're not surprised, though, because Parton is just such a great songwriter. It makes this album a true gift, with "Circle of Love" its bow.