After more than a decade away, Dolly Parton returned to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium last night for the first of two sold-out benefit shows. Greeted by a standing ovation, she got things started by saying, “For those who don't know me, I'll fill you in,” before heading into “Backwoods Barbie.” As she worked through an evening of indelible songs, heartfelt stories, and sharp humor, Dolly played eight different instruments (acoustic guitar, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, harmonica, piano, pennywhistle, electric guitar) … most of them sparkling … just like the lady herself.
Dolly's crystalline voice hasn't lost any bit of purity after all these years. That was made perfectly clear on both big hits like "Jolene" and "9 to 5" and mountain gospel numbers like “Smoky Mountain Memories,” “The Seeker,” and “Little Sparrow” which she and her band did mostly a cappella after a fully a cappella rendering of “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.” At one point, Dolly took a sip of water and joked that she didn't really need the water, she just saw Cher do that once and thought it was cool.
The songs, the voice, the jokes … there is only one Dolly. Everyone in the room knew they were in the presence of greatness, and they were grateful for it.
12 Best Quips
On doing a benefit show: "Usually I keep the money for myself. … Don't laugh! It costs a fortune to look this cheap!"
On her look: "You know you're a hillbilly when you get a boob job before you get your teeth done."
On bathing in a creek growing up: “You'd wash down as far as possible, then up as far as possible. And, when everybody turned their heads, you'd wash possible.”
On why her parents had 12 kids: “I come from horny Baptists and holy rollers!”
On advice from her mother: “She said, 'No matter how successful you get, give God the credit.' I said, 'I will. But I'm keeping the cash.'”
On her grandpa chiding her about wearing makeup: “He told me I wasn't going to heaven if I kept it up. I said, 'I want to go to heaven, but do I have to look like hell to get there?'”
On Pentecostals not plucking and shaving: “That's why they wear those bangs and long dresses: to hide the busy eyebrows and Sasquatch legs.”
On not playing piano as well as Norah Jones did on her version of “The Grass Is Blue”: “I'm no Norah Jones, but it's my song.”
On “The Grass Is Blue”: “I write a lot of sad songs, but that one right there is just pitiful.”
On which was more important — her two body mics or her boobs: “If these two go down, I'll be out of business, sailing around this room like an inflatable doll.”
On switching to electric guitar: “Up to now, it's been Dolly: Pure & Simple. I'm plugging my country butt back in. It was Dolly: Pure & Simple. Now it's Dolly: Loud & Stupid.”
On “Here You Come Again,” her first huge hit after leaving Porter Wagoner: “He liked this song. He didn't like that he didn't produce it, but he liked the song.”
Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That
Tennessee Mountain Home
Coat of Many Colors
Smoky Mountain Memories
The Grass Is Blue
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
Baby I'm Burnin'
Two Doors Down
Here You Come Again
Islands in the Stream
9 to 5
I Will Always Love You