"This old world has gone to pieces/ can we fix it, is there time?/ hate and violence just increase/ we're so selfish, cruel and blind/ we fight and kill each other/ in your name, defending you/ do you love some more than others?/ we're so lost and confused." - Hello God - Dolly Parton.

It's unlikely Dolly Parton and Steve Earle will be two stepping together at a bluegrass wedding.

Dolly has proven she's a little smarter than peers who resurrect their careers with new images to fit the fads of the day.

Parton, reared on bluegrass and gospel in the Smoky Mountains, has the credibility to question the God fearing gruel, force-fed by bucolic bible belters.

The September 11 massacres fuelled the riveting rhetoric of 'Hello God' from third Sugar Hill disc, 'Halos & Horns' (Shock.)

Parton better known in this radio backwater for her movies than music, is in a perfect position to probe religion sparking wanton war since Jesus stone stamped the Last Supper guest list.

"All these religions, all these different people, are killing each other in the name of God," Dolly recently revealed, "it makes you wonder, is he just your God? I thought he was my God too.

It's like he's everybody's God but we want to pigeon hole him as just belonging to us. Well, I know that ain't right. It can't be. It's just us being stupid and foolish because God is everybody's."

The song, companion song of sorts to Alan Jackson's 'Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning,?' is further proof country music has long been the literate music of the people.

Other songs gifted to her include 'Color Me America,' which she performs live, and 'Raven Dove' - a 2 am visitation spawned from the lines "raven of darkness, dove of peace."

She wrote most of the songs in spontaneous sessions at her East Tennessee mountain home and cut them with local pickers and road band at a nearby Knoxville studio.

Ironically, the title track and album theme was inspired by a pilot of a TV show she unsuccessfully pitched to Fox and not a fairly recent George Jones single.

"It sets up the whole album being about sinners and saints," Dolly says in her liner notes, "I go from one song about swimming naked in the pond to a spiritual number. We're all struggling to be good, but we can't be all the time."

Parton has long been a melancholic mistress of mood swings - 'Sugar Hill' is not just a paean to her record label but an embryonic love locale.

And, of course, one liners - "my own little record label is called Blue Eye so I thought this would be a great blue eye way to brown nose."

The singer owes much of her longevity to song hoarding - she found 'Not For Me' on a tape of songs she wrote in 1964 when she first hit Music City.

That era also produced the gospel tinged 'John Daniel' - which pre-dates 'Jolene': it enabled her to use her Dollywood theme park 'Kingdom Heirs' quartet.

Much more modern is 'If Only' borrowed from the music for her Mae West movie.

Unlike bluegrass banished to self parody by pious practitioners the Parton progenitor peaks in 'These Old Bones' where Dolly mimics mama.

And she lands a few punches or, is that scratches, on tabloid tremors - a bitter sweet career caricature for her and peers diverse as Loretta, Tammy, Tanya Tucker, Carlene Carter, Rosanne Cash and Lorrie Morgan.

Dolly examines ruptured romance from her assertive rack off Romeo on 'I'm Gone' to the fragility of suffering in 'Dagger Through The Heart.'

And all of this cut to measure in a sugar hill coated cloak of bluegrass and gospel with harmonies from Beth and April Stevens.

Now, back to Earle whose marriages outnumber Dolly's six to one and lost the Del McCoury band as touring compadres because of on stage profanities.

Well, Steve moves back into the rock jungle with new disc 'Jerusalem' and lanced the radio boil by writing 'John Walker's Blues' from the viewpoint of the Taliban recruit.
It features Earle's recitation of an Arabic prayer and ends with mullahs reading from the Quran.


Big Rock Candy Mountain belle Dolly Parton met her match when she traded make up and hair care hints with Boy George on release of her bluegrass album, The Grass Is Blue, in 1999.

The big haired hombres teamed on dance duet, Your Kisses Are Charity, before Dolly returned to the roots of her Smoky Mountains raising in East Tennessee.

"He outdid me on the make-up," Dolly said of the London gig, "he came out and his hair was bigger than mine. He had a big rhinestone necklace and big ear-rings. I got jealous because he out-dressed me. I wish I would have known because I has some gaudier stuff as well. I loved his make up. I love the way he does his eyes and he loves the way I do mine."

Milking a miss-match of the most mirthful kind is one of the many strong suits for a singer who soared to fame with rhinestone retro prince Porter Wagoner in the sixties.

Since then Dolly's dynamics have propelled a multi-media career in movies, music, writing and TV show hosting.

But behind the glitz and glamour beats a hurting heart that heralded the peak of her career on The Grass Is Blue and second bluegrass album Little Sparrow (Sugar Hill-Shock).

Dolly exposed her humanity by launching an Eagle Mountain Sanctuary to protect America's bald eagles at her famed Dollywood theme park at Pigeon Forge in Sevier County, Tennessee.

It was followed by her Dollywood Foundation - an educational support body reducing the high drop out rate in the mountain areas of her childhood.

So, with more than 3,000 original tunes in her catalogue and close to 80 albums in a recording career that began in 1966, it was a win-win situation to cut what bluegrass fans wanted.

That was spawned by a trip three years ago to a Smoky Mountains cabin where she holed up and fasted for two weeks and wrote 37 songs - embryo for her roots country comeback album Hungry Again.

So what took Dolly, who often cut bluegrass songs, so long to return to her roots explored in My Tennessee Mountain Home and Heart Songs At Dollywood with Suzanne Cox and Allison Krauss?

"If you're on a major label, like I was for so long, it really not the kind of stuff that makes any money," Dolly revealed, "you can't make a living doing gospel music or bluegrass music, as a rule. It's unfortunate because it's a great music. I guess I had to wait till I was rich enough to sing like I was poor again."

Dolly, wed to Carl Dean since 1966, debuted on the charts with Dumb Blonde in 1967 and has spent the past 34 years proving she wasn't.

The commercial radio dork talk dudes don't get it but those of us raised on rural rooted country music are riding in the driver's seat since Dolly revived such classics as the Louvin Bros' Cash On The Barrelhead, Lester Flatt's I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open, Johnny Cash's I Still Miss Someone and four of her own tunes including the title track on The Grass Is Blue.

And, now two years down the lost highway, Dolly returns with help from friends Claire Lynch, Alison Krauss, Rhonda & Darrin Vincent, Sonya Isaacs, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Chris Thiele, Jerry Douglas, Maura O'Connell, Carl Jackson and Dan Tyminski.

Little Sparrow finds her spreading a lavish layer of fertile phosphate on a bridge between the Appalachian and Anglo-Celtic ballad traditions.

This time she revives the oft recorded Steve Young tune Seven Bridges Road and The Beautiful Lie penned by the late Amazing Rhythm Aces co-founder-drummer Butch McDade - also from East Tennessee - and Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You.

But she peaks in six originals - My Blue Tears, Blue Pastures, Mountain Angel, Marry Me, Down From Dover and the title track.

In Mountain Angel the singer's heroine is destroyed by a "wicked handsome stranger" - the devil in disguise.

Sonya Isaacs and sister Becky Isaacs Bowman harmonise on Celtic laced Down From Dover - a tawdry tale of an illegitimate child that dies.

"Back when I first recorded it in the sixties you couldn't talk about a girl being pregnant out of wedlock on the radio, especially a girl with a dead baby," Dolly says, "you weren't to talk of a pregnant girl being run out of home. Porter Wagoner even had me take a verse out."

The singer is joined by Irish group Altan for a verse in Gaelic in revamped gospel standard In The Sweet By And By.

Parton is qualified to sing about her roots - she vividly recalls her Smoky Mountains childhood.

"We'd just set up there on those old porches," Dolly says, "It's not like we had any place to go. There were no trains, no cars, no buses. So you were really up there with the woods and the people. That world was really embedded in me, and it still is. I'm one of those artists that still writes about it, still sings about it, still loves it. It's my Smoky Mountains DA, deep in every fibre of my body."

Dolly is the beacon for younger, lesser known proteges - long submerged in a sales swamp that fast becomes quicksand when they chance their arm on the more creative country sub genres.

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