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Blue Smoke
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on May 23, 2014
Debuting at #6 on Billboard's Hot 200 chart (#2 Country), 'Blue Smoke' is already one of Dolly Parton's most commercially successful albums. The strong sales are surprising and especially rewarding considering that mainstream country radio has refused to play her since the mid-1990s (she had to promote the record by booking back-to-back talk show appearances and an hour-long concert on QVC) and that after 50 years in the business she has more hit records behind than ahead of her.

So how well does the album stack up against her earlier classics? Quite well, actually. Like her best records, it is comprised mostly of original songs Dolly wrote herself, Dollified covers of rock classics, and sweet duets with friends (in this case Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson).

In the liner notes (at least in my copy, which I preordered from Wal-Mart for the four bonus tracks), she says she recorded an album of music she thought her fans wanted to hear from her. This, I think, explains what other listeners have described as the album's "mixed sound." The title track, "Blue Smoke," is an audience favorite from her 2004 tour, "Unlikely Angel" and "From Here to the Moon and Back" are definitive recordings of songs she had performed for movie soundtracks, "Banks of the Ohio" and "If I Had Wings" are folksongs that would sound at home on her Grammy-winning 'Grass Is Blue' record, and "Home" is both a personal anthem and a probably futile gambol for radio circulation. The closer, "Try," joins "Jesus and Gravity" and much of the 'Better Day' album in sharing with listeners the wisdom that Dolly has attained in her 68 remarkable years.

Of course, the album isn't perfect. The production is sometimes overdone; the song "Miss You-Miss Me," which talks about divorce from a child's perspective, is a little preposterous (and lacks the redeeming novelty of "Me and Little Andy"); and the French and English kibitzing at the end of "Lover Du Jour" makes an already cheesy song hard for me to sit through. Still, it is good to see Dolly continuing to work her magic and recording original and thoughtful music at an age when a lot of others would be content to rest on their laurels. Dolly is an ambitious artist and businesswoman who has lived something of a storybook life. 'Blue Smoke' proves that life still has a few more surprises in store, and I, for one, am just as excited as ever to see what's next.
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on February 19, 2014
Have been a dolly fan for nearly 40 years and wasn't too excited to get blue smoke but once it got here and I listened to it it gave me that excited feeling about dolly again. The CD is really good. Not a big fan of willies cover of "from here to the moon and back" or "miss you miss me" but other than that the other tracks are great. Love love love the title track "blue smoke", "you can't make old friends" with kenny, "home", "lay your hands on me", "banks of the ohio", and many more! Yeah its true dolly is getting older and her concerts are no longer live but instead lip syncing :( , but she still puts out great CDs!!!
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VINE VOICEon February 16, 2014
Back in 2004 Dolly announced that her next album would be titled "Blue Smoke" and that in addition to the title track, it would contain covers of pop songs from the 60's. She began doing the title track on her tour that year. However the album never materialized, instead she released "Those Were The Days" which was all cover songs. Ten years later we get the "Blue Smoke" album. Overall the album contains a mixture of the type of material she's been doing over the past two decades, bluegrass, mountain, country.
Two of the tracks have been previously released, the two duets. "You Can't Make Old Friends" with Kenny Rogers was released last year on his album of the same name. "From Here To The Moon And Back" with Willie Nelson was issued last year on his "To All The Girls" album, prior to that it was released on the "Joyful Noise" soundtrack with Kris Kristofferson as her duet partner.
"Unlikely Angel" was the theme song from the 1996 TV movie of the same name, but gets it's official release here. "Banks Of The Ohio", the old standard was originally recorded for Dolly's "Heartsongs" album in 1994, but left off the final release. The Bob Dylan classic "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" was originally intended for her "Those Were The Days" album, but appears here for the first time.
Of the title track, originally recorded with The Grascals, musically it sounds a lot like a slightly sped up version of her "These Old Bones", a very bluegrass track. "Lay Your Hands On Me" is Dolly's gospel re-interpretation of the Bon Jovi track. She did to this, the same thing she did to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" and Collective Soul's "Shine".
"If I Had Wings" is very much in the mountain music vein of her "Little Sparrow" album. "Miss You Miss Me" is one of Dolly's tearjerkers that she does so well. "Home" is one of those old time down home country songs, that you don't hear much these days.
This brings us to the best and worst of the album. "Lover Du Jour" is Dolly at her corniest. It is right up there with "Dump The Dude" or "PMS Blues". The album ends on a very high note with "Try", which is among her uplifting best.
So there you have it, some new songs, some older songs, and for the most part some great songs, only one clunker.
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on May 21, 2014
I have always been a big Dolly Parton fan but more so in recent years. When I heard she had a new CD coming out I was beyong excited and had high hopes, and I was definitely not disappointed. There isn't a bad song on the album (although I'm not a fan of the Willie Nelson duet - more because of him than her)Other than that I had no complaints. Banks of the Ohio, and If I had wings are beautiful and Blue Smoke is a very catchy song you'll catch yourself singing or humming to without realizing it. Definitely buy this album!
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on May 26, 2017
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on October 17, 2014
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on March 26, 2015
Great recording as Dolly always does.
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on May 3, 2016
Excellent cd as always dolly is awesome.
Have loved her for years, I went to concerts in the 80s and she was with Kenny Rogers . My kids would sing islands in the stream while going down road. Would live to go to concert in charleston but don't have the money now.
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on February 13, 2014
Spanning an incredible 50 years nearly to the day Dolly Parton came to Nashville in 1964 to become a superstar Dolly has released "Blue Smoke", her 72nd in-studio album. For those of us in North America and Europe who have to wait until May to purchase the CD, "Blue Smoke" is available as an import from Australia where it has already been released to much critical and commercial acclaim. The CD debut at #1 on the Country Charts and an incredible #9 on the Australian Pop Charts thanks in part to her "Blue Smoke" world tour that began Down Under in early February, 2014.

The album has pretty much everything that Dolly can sing or write about. From the Appalachian/Bluegrass sound of the title-track to the beautiful ballads of "Try" and "Unlikely Angel" (from her TV movie of the same name from 1996) Dolly is sure to please all her fans and then some.

Her cover of Jon Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands On Me" is simply electrifying and her duets with Kenny Rogers ("You Can't Make Old Friends") and Willie Nelson ("From Here to The Moon and Back", a song she recorded with Kris Kristofferson for her film "Joyful Noise") only add to the essence of the album.

For the ardent Dolly fan there will be a vinyl release of "Blue Smoke" released the same day as the CD edition!

For me, however, it is Dolly's voice that even at 68 she still sings them better than Swift, Cyrus, McBride and all the other gals out there. After all what would you expect from a Living Legend?!

A++ Dolly!

UPDATE: For the week ending May 23rd, 2014 "Blue Smoke" debut at #2 on the Billboard Country Charts and an amazing #6 on the Billboard Pop Charts making this the first time a solo Dolly Parton album has entered the Top 10 on the Pop side. This is a career first for Dolly. The CD in its first week of release has sold over 40,000 copies!!!
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on March 10, 2014
This is a really top and very enjoyable listen, whether you are a fan or not. The mix of Country, Blue grass, Pop/light rock, Old World, and Gospel gives it a diversity which means you never tire of it. Sometimes on albums, we have just one or two favourites; here I can say that I really loved eleven of the thirteen tracks and enjoyed the other two. She wrote eight of the songs.The title track is lively, catchy and pure Dolly. She wrote it and though never previously put on an album, versions from concerts appeared on internet and have been very popular for years. Now we can enjoy the full sound. Unlikely angel is a beautiful love song, first on a TV movie of same name, clocked up several million views on youtube; again never out on album - this Blue Grass version really brings it up to date. Don't Think Twice, a Bob Dylan cover, wonderful, she made it her own and more - one of my all time favourites of her covers. You Can't Make Old Friends, duet with Kenny, is extremely touching and their chemistry works. Wish though that they had blended the voices more and that Dolly had also harmonised more. She really lifted this song in the parts she did and if you are a certain wise age, you will connect immediately. The song Home, is a great,Dolly penned song; the fast wordy mix reminds me of Sugar Hill, it would be a hit if it got air play and became a single. Banks of the Ohio is a haunting gem, it shows why she's the queen. Miss you, Miss me was written for a TV Christmas movie end last year, one she has sung just with her and guitar, simply, clear and touching. If I had Wings is a sister of Little Sparrow, only better. I like the faster tempo and fragile sentiment, simply beautiful. From Here to the Moon and Back, she wrote for Joyful Noise Move, long listed for Oscars last year (several million views already on youtube for that alone.) It is gorgeous and dueting it with Willie Nelson adds a good edge. She harmonises so wonderfully that she raises the standard of her duet partners even when they are legends. Try is a song she wrote just for a commencment speech in Tennessee which she gave some years ago and is really an anthem for her philosophy of life. Again already just for that university singing, got millions of views. This album remake of it is fantastic. I love the words. Lover du Jour is my least favourite. It has that Romeo or Shinola feel to it - I do find the wording fun, but it doesn't hit the right nerve with me. Lay your hands on me, a Bonjovi cover; she does a great gospel spin on it; reminds me of Shine. It's not my genre, but I can appreciate it. Her music is like a Monet garden or an Impressionist painting, a beautiful tapestry and the threads of her voice unique. I think in terms of use of her vocals and musical range, this is the best album she's done in a long time.
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