Dolly Parton always delights, so while there are some who consider her just a bit of a Pollyanna, there are plenty of others who happily offer her a “hello Dolly” any time she provides something new. While her big hair and, uh, other big attributes often make her comic fodder for late night TV, the fact is, she remains one of contemporary music’s most accomplished songwriters and a singer of angelic quality.
Therefore, even though the title attached to Pure & Simple may belie Parton’s prowess, it’s a real treat regardless, twelve original songs revolving around the all-too familiar subject of eternal love and undying devotion. Granted, Dolly doesn’t necessarily deserve credit for originality; in fact, several songs directly reference like-minded classics, and one offering in particular — “Can’t Be That Wrong,” about the tragedy of two-timing your mate — sounds so much like another cheating song, “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right,” it’s almost a direct steal. Nevertheless, you have to give Dolly credit for laying bare her emotions, and, based on the saucy suggestion of the explicitly frisky “Outside Your Door,” presumably her body parts as well. Likewise, it’s hard to resist the upbeat optimism of “Pure and Simple,” the unabashed innocence of “I’m Sixteen,” or the honesty and affection expressed in “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine”:
“Darlin’ I won’t promise you
That we’ll be happy all the time
But forever I am yours
Say forever you’ll be mine.”
That’s a tough proposition to turn down. Then again, in this woe-begotten world, tender devotion needed more than ever before.
Consequently, any new part and parcel of Dolly becomes a welcome respite, all upbeat and irresistible. (Likewise, it’s also well worth investigating the re-release of her work with her all too brief collaboration with Emmylou Harris and Linda Rondstadt, now re-released as a three CD set that includes the trio’s two circa the late ‘80s original albums and a third disc of unreleased material.) As for Pure & Simple, suffice it to say that while it may make love appear a less complicated scenario than most romantic entanglements entail, its wistful reflection finds it a sweet sojourn nevertheless.