Nov 042022

Go back to the beginning

30. Teddy Thompson and Jenni Muldaur – Put It Off Until Tomorrow

From our review of last year’s Teddy & Jenni Do Porter & Dolly: “Dolly co-wrote this one in her days as a jobbing songsmith, ahead of its appearance on her debut solo recording and the eventual version with Wagoner, and which has been since reprised with Kris Kristofferson amongst others. Unsurprisingly, that makes this more a showcase for Muldaur, who handles this with a capable grace, and should have folk pricking up their ears as to the worth of exploring her back catalog. Plus, at the risk of sacrilege, she removes nearly all of the wobble from Dolly’s rendition, the aspect of Dolly that divides her from a more universal acclaim (and that can, indeed, on occasion, be heavy going.)” – Seuras Og

29. Quiet Loudly – Jolene

The first thing you’ll notice about this song is that the “Quiet” in Quiet Loudly doesn’t really apply. This noisy, messy homage is loud and sloppy. The vocals sound a bit unhinged; maybe the stress Jolene is causing has led to some overindulgence of alcohol. Few artists are going to be able to go head to head with Dolly’s voice, so this is a fun way to avoid even trying. Instead, the unfocused verses segue into two blistering guitar solos that border on shoegaze. The second solo in particular is 60 seconds of unrelenting, echoing fury. – Mike Misch

28. Constantines & Feist – Islands In The Stream

The rapport between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton makes “Islands in the Stream” one of the most timeless modern duets around (not to mention a stone-cold karaoke classic). Constantines and Feist were bright stars of their own—part of Toronto’s restlessly creative, now-iconic ‘00s indie rock scene—but far away from Rogers and Parton’s pop magnetism and schmaltz. Yet Constantines and Feist manage to find their own natural way into cover of “Islands in the Stream,” muting the song’s brilliant shades enough to make things cozy and personable. The cover’s pared-back arrangement feels refreshingly handmade, with many big structural transformations: a half-time backbeat replaces the original’s jaunty gallop; fingerpicked acoustic guitar reels; a crunchy low-range blend instead of exultant top-range harmonies. No hip-wagging and rhinestones here — Constantines and Feist are tuned into “Islands in the Stream”’s purest, most genuine signals. – Ben Easton

27. Joan Osborne – Do I Ever Cross Your Mind

There are three “original” versions of “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” a song written by Parton in the 1970s in which the narrator wonders whether a former lover remembers her. The first recorded version is a charming duet between Parton and Chet Atkins, released on The Best of Chet Atkins & Friends, a 1976 album that collected released and unreleased collaborations. Parton and Atkins, long-time friends, perform the song with her taking the lead vocals, and him doing amazing Chet Atkins things on the guitar and chiming in on vocals, with their in-studio banter retained (most notably Parton’s delightful giggles). Parton performed the song live, and finally released an excellent solo version on her 1982 album Heartbreak Express, which topped the Billboard Country charts. Finally, a traditional country version recorded in 1994 with Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, and featuring Harris on lead vocals, was released on 1999’s Trio II. Joan Osborne’s cover on the aforementioned 2003 tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman feels closest to the Trio II version, but with Osborne’s soulful vocals replacing Harris’ classic country style. – Jordan Becker

26. Linda Ronstadt – I Will Always Love You

An iconic female singer covering “I Will Always Love You” at the height of her fame…Linda Ronstadt did just that in 1975 when she recorded the track for her album Prisoner in Disguise. (Were you thinking of someone else?) According to SecondHandSongs it’s the first official cover of the song. Ronstadt’s version was never released as a single, but listening to it decades later, it’s a bit of a headscratcher why. The heavily orchestrated cover allows Ronstadt’s voice to explode as she hits the final chorus. What could have been a monster hit in the ‘70s has remained a deep cut, paving the way for other, more popular takes in the future. – Curtis Zimmermann

25. The Brother Brothers ft. Michaela Anne – High Sierra

The newest cover on our list, this version of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Dolly Parton’s Trio II single came out just a few months ago. Actual brothers not actually named Brother, Adam and David Moss recorded it for their new album Cover to Cover. There’s a guitar and violin on the track, but really it’s all about the harmonies they get with Nashville singer Michaela Anne. – Ray Padgett

24. Lil Nas X – Jolene

Lil Nas X is a rapper turned accidental country star turned pop star. As I’m sure you all know, he scored a massive country hit in 2019 with “Old Town Road.” But with this cover of “Jolene” he proved that he might have a permanent place in country music. Recorded for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge in 2021, he delivered the track as a slow country blues dirge heavy on the emotional punch. The track went viral in the days after its release, solidifying Lil Nas X’s star power. – Curtis Zimmermann

23. Dan Bettridge – The Bargain Store

In one word, this cover is soothing. The pace is laid back, the vocals are rich, and the guitar lines remind me of the piano lines in The National’s “Light Years.” The vocals continue in the tradition of that song’s vocals as well, perhaps mixed with a little bit of country pluck that peeks out occasionally. As the guitar and vocals trade back and forth, the offerings of the bargain store seems more and more appealing. Why not stop by and see the merchandise? – Sara Stoudt

22. Lucy Rose – 9 to 5

“9 to 5” was Dolly’s big crossover hit, in more ways than one. She co-starred in the movie by that name, and the title song hit number 1 on the Hot 100, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts. Her sassy “Lord have mercy on the working woman” message rang loud and true all across the country. That’s what makes Lucy Rose’s cover so intriguing. She brings a slower, whispery approach to the song, sounding more like the lost narrator than the ever-peppy Dolly can. Interestingly, Lucy Rose is her stage name; her full name is Lucy Rose… Parton. No relation except the musical one. – Patrick Robbins

21. Sinead O’Connor – Dagger Through The Heart

In Sinéad O’Connor’s eminently readable 2021 memoir Rememberings, she described the cover of “Dagger Through My Heart” she did for the 2003 Dolly tribute album Just Because I’m A Woman as “my favorite collaboration I have ever recorded.” She said she chose the track because she connected with the “anger of the lyric.” Damn, did she ever. Sinéad has recorded nearly 90 covers in her career, and her rendition of “Dagger” is unquestionably one of the greatest; the vocal is just plain old jaw-droppingly stunning. It’s also an absolute blast to hear her employing the same trademark quiet-loud vocal effect she did on her classic anthem “The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance” here. Dolly loved the cover so much, she wrote her a letter: “Well, I have always loved you anyhow, but now I love you more. I absolutely love how you sang “Dagger Through the Heart”. Man alive, I feel that through and through.” Fun Fact: Dolly’s admiration didn’t stop there. Her own video of the track is a direct stylistic nod to Sinéad’s fabled “Nothing Compares To U” vid. – Hope Silverman


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