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Parton remains pure & simple

Hollywood Bowl, West Hollywood, Cal., October 2, 2016

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Dolly Parton named this tour after her latest album, "Pure and Simple," and while she admits to decorating everything - from her stage outfits to stage musical instruments - with sparkling rhinestones, at least at a sonic level, her concert on this beautiful summer hangover night in October lived up to its title.

Backed by a small but skilled musical combo, which also sang well together as a group whenever creating a three-man, one-woman gospel/bluegrass quartet with Parton, kept it purely and simply country, beneath all the obvious, but non-distracting visual glitz.

Parton may have closed the second set of her fulfilling performance with pop-ish sing-alongs like "9 to 5," "Here You Come Again" and "Two Doors Down," she earned the right to finish with this frothy desert by opening her concert with a mostly healthy helping of down home and heartfelt country fare.

It was tough to decide if biographical songs, like "Coat of Many Colors" and "My Tennessee Mountain Home" were better than the stories Parton told about them. Parton praised her mother for being a wonderfully engaging storyteller, even though everyone in this sold out theater were well aware they were watching and listening to a master chronicler in Parton. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

There are many artists, like Prince, that remain enigmas - even after death - whereas Parton is nearly a tell-all open book in comparison. She loves to fill in her audiences about her family, and she always does so with sincere love. She also lavishes this same love on her audiences. And while she didn't highlight any demographic group by name, she dedicated "Coat of Many Colors" to anyone who may have been made fun of for being different. She didn't need to get political; she was just espousing basic human values.

It's all too common to hear traditional country fans say things like, 'They just don't make 'em like Haggard and Jones anymore," whenever bemoaning whatever comprises the current crop of male country vocalists, yet rarely making similar comparisons for contemporary female artists. But I ask you, who's going to fill Parton's rhinestone high heels? Isn't this an equally troubling prospect?

Much like Haggard did until the very end, Parton continues to write and record stellar songs. She may have a bevy of hits to choose from each time she takes the stage, but her "Pure and Simple" album still finds the artist at the top of the creative game. At 70, Dolly Parton is a true musical treasure. It was heartening, then, to see so many sincere music fans - with non-country fans far out numbering the stereotypical boots and cowboy hat set - in house to show their appreciation for Parton's legacy. It was not unlike the hero's welcome Haggard at one of his last Stagecoach appearances. This was a showcase of pure talent, and it's just as simple as that.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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