Coat of Many Colors is the moment when Dolly Parton became a star. Its title track a Top Ten narrative of Dolly’s humble origins a story that follows her still Coat brought her out from Porter Wagoner’s shadow and cast her as country’s Self-Made Woman No. 1. It also wonderfully encapsulates every element of the nearly 40 years of Dolly’s career that have passed since its release: it dabbles in bluegrass and roots music, features triumphant, Memphis-style R&B, and winks at the majesty of pure pop, all in a tidy 27 minutes. It’s a killer. The best song by a long shot is “Here I Am,” a song so stupendous it’s a miracle it was never an enormous, career-defining hit. Written by Dolly (as is almost every song here), “Here I Am” is a big, ’70s-style power ballad, a finger-wag to any man that might underestimate how great even a little bit of Dolly would be in your life. “I can help you find what you’ve been searching for,” she brags with stunning boldness. No bashful lady, she. It’s hard to call Coat of Many Colors a country record; it’s so much more than that. But every song has its roots in Americana, in the humble hollows of the Appalachians and the songs and tunes passed down through God, through love and through sorrow. Dolly knows all of these. She sings from experience “Traveling Man” and “My Blue Tears” (which can make you weep from its beauty) and it’s one she boldly shares. Dolly’s career has been incredible in its longevity and its sincerity. And even amidst all of her success, this is her best moment.
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