Nov 042022

Go back to the beginning

40. Alison Krauss – 9 to 5

The original, written by Parton as the theme for a major Hollywood movie, is a big, shiny mainstream country pop song. The song’s appeal to a wider audience than just Parton’s country base was borne out when it became Parton’s only solo number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (as well topping the Country and Adult Contemporary charts). For the 2003 tribute album, Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss highlighted the country and bluegrass (and blues) influences that were hiding under the original’s glossy production in a way that might be more appropriate for the song’s populist message about the travails of the working class. – Jordan Becker

39. HEMMING – Living on Memories of You

Despite the emotional lyrics, the original version’s sound remains rather chipper. In this cover, though, the music encourages us to feel our feelings. A simple acoustic guitar replaces the original’s twang, but the raspy vocals rise above this barest of accompaniment. Unrushed, the story of days as dark as nights unfolds. A musical interlude before the final refrain provides a dreamscape sound; we get to hear those memories that HEMMING is living on. – Sara Stoudt

38. The Acoustic Guitar Troubadours – I Will Always Love You

The Acoustic Guitar Troubadours are a musical ensemble that specialized in popular guitar covers. Troubadours are, historically, a group of traveling French Medieval singers/poets who sing about love. Fittingly, this version of the heartrending “I Will Always Love You” is a soothing instrumental that still manages to keep that country flair. It would be the perfect instrumental for a romantic dinner or a solid addition to your nightly wind-down playlist. This cover has fingerstyle guitar contrasted with strummed rhythm guitar, and clear leads, which take the melody. The layers and layers of guitar make the stark and iconic key change from A to E that much sweeter. The tune then fades out without resolving, leaving us wanting just a little bit more. – Aleah Fitzwater

37. Maria Muldaur – My Tennessee Mountain Home

Maria Muldaur’s self-titled debut album was the one that featured her claim to fame, “Midnight at the Oasis.” The track that followed it was “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” and if it didn’t make people forget Dolly Parton’s original, it proved to be a strong song on an album full of them. Muldaur evokes the happy simplicity of life in the backwoods of the Volunteer State, and the joy is just as palpable in her take as in Dolly’s. – Patrick Robbins

36. Japanese Breakfast – Here You Come Again

Japanese Breakfast—the moniker of, and band led by, Michelle Zauner—delivers her melancholy pop with both sweetness and optimism. Like Dolly, peel back the chipper smile, and her music contains multitudes. She carries this to her pitch-perfect cover of “Here You Come Again.” Zauner and her bandmates featured the cover live in nearly 30 performances worldwide through 2021. Give some credit to the rest of Japanese Breakfast too, whose members make this cover feel both as spritely and warm as the original cut. – Ben Easton

35. Emmylou Harris – Coat of Many Colors

One of Dolly’s best known songs, and one she seems often the proudest of, this semi-autobiographical story has itself been painted in many colors. Many make a maudlin mawkfest of it, which, given it is a song of celebration, seems a shame. But Emmylou Harris, both a friend and a stage-sharing collaborator, makes no such wrong step. From her debut album, Pieces of the Sky, it is a masterclass in pathos, that much bleaker than the original but racking up hope into the anguish. – Seuras Og

34. Glen Campbell – Light Of A Clear Blue Morning

Glen Campbell basks in the big-hearted warmth emanating from “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” His cover, released in 1991, admittedly feels removed from cuts like “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Got to Phoenix,” his iconic and decidedly cryptic collaborations with Jimmy Webb from the late ‘60s. But whereas the aforementioned classics contain countless shades, dappled orchestral colors and tones of ambivalence, this Parton cover is a clarion view, focusing the hues into a resolute and blazing flood of white. – Ben Easton

33. Paula Cole – Jolene

A heartbreaking (and maybe a little pathetic) song rooted in Parton’s jealousy after a bank teller flirted with her new husband, “Jolene” is very much a classic country song. Paula Cole, who studied jazz singing at Berklee, first became known as Peter Gabriel’s touring backup singer/duet partner, and then became popular as a singer/songwriter/producer and a stalwart of the Lilith Fair tours in the late 1990s, performed the song live. Her stripped-down bass-heavy accompaniment, in a jazzy, hip-hop style, often included a beatbox section. It’s worlds away from the original, and yet it delivers a similar emotional impact. – Jordan Becker

32. Kishi Bashi – Early Morning Breeze

The original “Early Morning Breeze” was released on Dolly’s 1971 Coat of Many Colors album and has a very typical country sound, of a gentle acoustic guitar with slide guitars and a soft snare in the background. Kishi Bashi has expertly managed to make this track sound like it was released in the 1960s folk-rock heyday. A velvety echoed vocal over fingerpicked guitar and soft fiddles soon makes way to smooth harmonies as the beat picks up and the track turns into something extremely danceable and foot-tap-along-able. It wouldn’t be out of place at any country party as the sun started to go down. – Brendan Shanahan

31. Gloria Gaynor – I Will Always Love You

Gloria Gaynor’s 1994 cover of “I Will Always Love You” doesn’t come close to the slow-rolling majesty of Whitney Houston’s, but the track makes up for things in the ways that it moves. Whitney’s version might make you sway on occasion, but this is the “I Will Always Love You” that will get you properly wiggling. Off-the-cuff harmony swells, chintzy keyboard punches and clip-clap drum machines bob in and through of the mix; a slate of synth arpeggiators keeping things strutting ever onward into the nighttime, Gaynor soaring above the fray. A thrillingly seedy last-call disco version of a cover of a Parton original. – Ben Easton


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