Hello Dolly!

Devin Grant



I was raised in a house that was filled with music.


No, neither of my parents played an instrument, but they both loved music and it was always playing in our home.


Dad was a fan of Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel, while mom loved the Beatles and old-school country. That meant artists such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and of course Dolly Parton. My mom, who passed away back in 1988, loved her some Dolly Parton. I grew up listening to mom singing Parton tunes like “Here You Come Again” and “Jolene.”


She also loved seeing Parton on the silver screen in movies like “9 To 5” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Unfortunately, mom never got to see Parton live, but I inherited her love of classic country, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Dolly. So it was with great excitement that I attended last Friday night’s Dolly Parton concert at the North Charleston Coliseum.


Dubbed the “Pure & Simple Tour,” after the title of her latest album, the show demonstrated that, despite being 70 years old, Parton is still a lively and energetic performer. Seriously, I hope that when I turn 70 I have even a fraction of the energy Parton exhibited onstage Friday night. With no opening act and only three additional musicians backing her, Parton performed for more than two and a half hours with just a short break in the middle to change outfits.


Dolly Parton at the North Charleston Coliseum 11/18/16


I’ve seen artists a third of her age play for an hour and appear exhausted, but Dolly didn’t appear to be breaking a sweat. She also never stopped smiling, cracked jokes and told great stories between songs, and played at least ten different instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, harmonica, saxophone, flute, fiddle, and piano. 



    After opening with “Train, Train” Dolly welcomed the audience warmly. “I love you,” shouted one fan. “I love you too, but I told you to stay in the truck,” Dolly shot back. It was the first of a string of self-deprecating one-liners that would last throughout the show. Parton proved to be an expert at working a crowd, punctuating songs like “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That?” and “Applejack” with stories from her life, which started as one of a dozen children growing up in rural Tennessee.



Early on in the show Parton sat on a small pedestal she dubbed her “front porch” and sang songs like “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” “Coat of Many Colors,” and “Precious Memories” while strumming a dulcimer and autoharp. For a rousing cover of “Rocky Top” she started on banjo, transitioned to fiddle, and then somehow found a way to insert a saxophone solo in, all while dancing in platform heels that added about a foot to her height.


Parton referenced the recent elections, remarking how divisive things had become in the country, then remarked that back in the 60’s things had been similar, but that she’d loved the protest songs from that era. Parton performed a medley that included “American Pie,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Dust in the Wind,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” 



Dolly Parton at the North Charleston Coliseum 11/18/16



    After a couple of more tunes Parton and her band took a short break, after which she exploded back onto the stage singing “Baby I’m Burnin’” while playing a rhinestone-studded electric guitar. A beautiful version of “Outside Your Door” led to “The Grass is Blue,” which Parton told the crowd Nora Jones had covered on a recent album.



“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” “Little Sparrow,” and “Two Doors Down” opened things up to Parton’s more familiar hits, and by the time she rolled out “Islands in the Stream” and “9 To 5,” the crowd at the Coliseum was on its feet clapping and singing along. Dolly returned to the stage almost immediately to sing one of her best-known songs, “I Will Always Love You,” which she said is a song that a lot of people consider a Whitney Houston tune.



Dolly Parton at the North Charleston Coliseum 11/18/16


“She can have it. She did a beautiful job singing it,” said Parton of the late R&B legend, “I’m happy to collect the royalties.” 



    There are some who say that the Pure & Simple Tour might be Dolly Parton’s last, that she’s basically taking a victory lap around the world to get up close and personal with her fans. If that is indeed the case, she’s certainly giving said fans their money’s worth. I again want to stress that the woman is 70, an age where a lot of folks are, quite justifiably, slowing down and taking it easy.



Not Dolly; she’s a human tornado, laying waste to any notion that a senior citizen is automatically destined for a rocking chair. Were my mother still alive she’d have been 78 this year, and no doubt would have been dazzled by Friday night’s show. As it were though, I think a little bit of my mother’s spirit was inhabiting the woman who was sitting just to the other side of my wife.


Dolly Parton at the North Charleston Coliseum 11/18/16


Apparently this woman was a huge Dolly fan and had been given tickets to the show by her son. As Parton rolled out hit after hit this woman was clapping and stomping her feet so enthusiastically that the risers in section 130 where we were sitting were bouncing. At that moment I could almost feel mom there, enjoying the show with us. You keep rocking out as long as you feel like doing so, Dolly. The rest of us could learn a few things about lust for life from someone like you.