Dolly Parton: My Blue Tears
My first impression of her had nothing to do with music. It was the enormous breasts. Parton was the one who made sure everyone knew about them. So, she was the trashy blond who had something to do with country. Then, I heard that she had opened an amusement park named after herself. And there was the movie, 9 To 5.
I actually saw it in the theater. I don’t remember why. It was a slight comedy. The songs were my first introduction to Parton’s music, and it wasn’t even country. It was bad pop.
At the time, I was in my “cool” phase. I wasn’t about to like country music. New wave was the thing. Jazz gave me an edge. So did blues. Folk was a secret only my closest friends knew about.
But, I got older, and left the peer pressure of high school behind. A girlfriend liked going to bars to dance to local country bands, and I began to realize that, yes, it was corny, but country music had something honest to say. Still, even the idea of liking Dolly Parton was embarrassing.
Cut to 2001. Now I am married to a woman who doesn’t care for most country music. The sound of country music has changed. Line dancing is big, and the classic sound of country is becoming a distant memory. And word reaches me that Dolly Parton has made a bluegrass album! A good one, even! The idea is so weird that I have to check it out. And it really is true.
The album was Little Sparrow, and the song My Blue Tears is right there in the middle of it. Here, it is a slow ballad about the sorrow of having a lover leave. The lyrics are a plea by the wounded protagonist to a bluebird whose sad song reminds her of her loss. The song has a naive simplicity to the concept, and the listener cannot help but sympathize.
It turns out that My Blue Tears is a Parton original that has been with her for a while. She first recorded it on her album Coat of Many Colors, in a more upbeat early seventies country arrangement. There is also a beautiful duet version on Linda Ronstadt’s album Get Closer. So, maybe Parton will record the song again in the future. I’ll be keeping an ear out, to see what she does with it next.