Just Because I'm a Woman
A hoary old country music joke goes like this: "Porter Wagner and Dolly Parton, there's two big'uns." And while Porter will be best remembered for his spectacular hair and Nudie suits, Dolly Parton's 3000+song legacy insures her music will continue to be heard long after her chest is forgotten. Just Because I'm a Woman – Songs of Dolly Parton delivers eleven different artists' takes on some of her most memorable songs.
Dolly's first release, not so coincidentally also titled Just Because I'm a Woman, came out on RCA in 1968. Since then several generations of female musicians have been influenced not only by her on-stage persona, but also her magnificent voice and prodigious musical talent. As you might expect, a number of major country and bluegrass artists grace this new anthology, but musicians from other genres also contribute, making this collection far more encompassing than it would be otherwise. Melissa Etheridge, Joan Osborne, Sinead O'Connor, Me'Shell N'Degeocello, and Nora Jones' renditions of Parton classics certainly spice up the musical gumbo. Alison Krauss, Shania Twain, Shelby Lynne, Mindy Smith, Allison Moorer, and Emmylou Harris all weigh in on the country side. As an added treat Parton herself adds her own freshly recorded version of "Just Because I'm a Woman" on the final track.
With all this exceptional talent, singling out the best cut on the album would make King Solomon stutter and shake. Sinead O'Connor turns in the most idiosyncratic rendition of "Dagger Through the Heart," but oddball arrangements have long been her forte. Me'Shell N'Degeocello's treatment of "Two Doors Down" turns this song into a Prince-like urban sex romp and comes in a close second. Kinky? You bet. The most ornate production award goes to Alison Moorer, whose version of "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" includes artificial record noise mated to a thick bed of synthesizers. My favorite cut has to be Joan Osborne's take on "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind." Produced by John Leventhal and Rick Depofi, who also play all the backup instruments, Osborne's strong but lilting voice delivers the song with disarmingly direct intimacy.
Just Because I'm a Woman adds to executive Steve Buckingham considerable reputation as an anthology expert. His other projects, Evangeline Made: A Tribute to Cajun Music, It'll Come to You: The Songs of John Hiatt, and The Chieftains' last release, Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions, prove that Buckingham can take recordings made in many different studios and make them sound consistently good. Even the Emmylou Harris selection, "To Daddy" from her mid 80's release Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town holds up well, due in no small part to the efforts of Eric Conn and Don Cobb from Independent Mastering in Nashville, Tennessee.
Putting together a great anthology involves the art of mating the familiar with the new to create a final result that is novel without being alien, and fresh without being trendy. Just Because I'm a Woman – Songs of Dolly Parton balances these contradictory influences to create an anthology that is almost as seductive as its music's creator.