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SUG 4007

Those Were the Days [Audio CD] Parton, Dolly

Like 1996's Treasures, this covers collection by Dolly Parton might seem, on the surface, to be a gimmicky filler in her prestigious catalog of some of country's finest originals. Yet it's a vast improvement. Those Were the Days, largely bluegrass-inspired and featuring a plethora of famous duet and harmony partners, has more than a few sterling moments. And that's not just because songs like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," "Blowin' in the Wind," "Both Sides Now," and "Twelfth of Never" find her paired with the likes of Norah Jones, Lee Ann Womack, Nickel Creek, Judy Collins, and Keith Urban. If Parton takes John Lennon's "Imagine" too far over the top, she rescues Tommy James's overly processed "Crimson and Clover" from its original reverb hell, her understated banjo/Dobro/fiddle arrangement imbuing it with dignity. Other selections seem an obvious fit. "Me and Bobby McGee" (with a charmed Kris Kristofferson) resonates with longing and loss, while "If I Were a Carpenter," a duet with Joe Nichols, finds sensual heat smoldering above its solid musical underpinning. But the gem here is her rendering of "The Cruel War," on which Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, and Mindy Smith add feathery harmony vocals to Parton's gossamer lead--a performance so authentically poignant and heartfelt as to melt an Arctic ice cap. No matter how this odd collection hits you, give the Cantilevered One credit for being brave enough to tackle it, as well as extra kudos for coaxing two very special guests into the studio--Parton's old partner and one-time nemesis Porter Wagoner on the title track, and Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens, who plays acoustic guitar on his own "Where Do the Children Play." You just never know what the Wigged Wonder will do next. --Alanna Nash

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