Essential Dolly Parton Albums

Dolly Parton was born in 1946 in the Tennessee hills to a poor family. Her vivid imagination and natural musical talent had her writing songs and performing on a Knoxville radio station by age 11. She went on to become one of the most successful women in the business, turning her talent into a variety of very lucrative ventures, while maintaining her easy going humor and down home attitude. She was one of the first women in the business to take control of her career and make it happen the way she wanted. With music, movies, theme parks and dinner theaters – there is obviously no stopping Dolly!

01
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9 to 5 & Odd Jobs

Country singer Dolly Parton acts in a scene from the movie '9 to 5' in 1980
Country singer Dolly Parton acts in a scene from the movie '9 to 5' in 1980. Michael Ochs Archives/Moviepix/Getty Images

The title track of this album was also the soundtrack for the first of many feature films for Parton. It has been one of my favorite albums, and one I bought on LP when it first came out. Along with "9 to 5" you'll find such songs as "Detroit City," "Working Man," "Deportee" and "The House of the Rising Sun." I think this album just was another stepping stone for Parton in trying out new sounds as it has more of an R&B feel through most of it. But no matter what style of music she chooses to sing, there is no mistaking who it is singing the songs.

02
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Dolly Live and Well

Recorded live at the Celebrity Theater in Dollywood in 2002, this two-CD set encompasses the entire career of Parton. It was recorded over two nights and was a part of her "Halos & Horns" tour, her first live tour in over 10 years. Everything from "Coat of Many Colors" to "Dagger in My Heart" is on the 23 song set. And there is also a DVD that was filmed as well. I enjoyed not only the variety of songs but the humor Parton is well known for. She talks to her audience and you just never know what is going to come out of her mouth!

03
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Essential Dolly Parton

Very similar to 'Live and Well,' but this collection includes a few more songs, and a few more old favorites, and some of her more current hits. They included duets with Porter Wagoner on "Don't Stop Loving Me," Kenny Rogers with "Islands In the Stream" and "The Rockin' Years" with Ricky Van Shelton. In the first disc, they included a lot of her older music like "Dumb Blonde," "Love is Like A Butterfly" and "Mule Skinner Blues." On the second disc there are more of her crossover hits like "Here You Go Again" and "Two Doors Down." A great sampling of various songs that in some cases are out of print and very hard to find.

04
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Originally recorded in 1974, this album was the first Dolly recorded after parting ways with Porter Wagoner. It was where she took creative control of her career, and it included two career defining songs for her. Of course "Jolene" was a huge hit and is one that is still played on the airwaves today. "I Will Always Love You" not only became a hit for Parton twice, it crossed continents and genres when Whitney Houston decided to record it. It is definitely an album to have if you are a Dolly Parton fan. More »

05
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Halos and Horns

This album was the third acoustic album released from Sugar Hill Records. This was my favorite of the three, although I liked them all. It has some great songs like "Sugar Hill," These Old Bones" and "Dagger Through the Heart." Of course "Hello God" has to be mentioned as well. And "Halos and Horns" is the classic struggle of being good vs. being bad and having fun no matter what. She also covered the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven."

06
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The Grass is Blue

This one is the first of her acoustic series. It is her first album in the road back to her roots. She recruited some great friends to help her out like Patty Loveless, Alison Krause, Stuart Duncan, Rhonda Vincent and Dan Tyminski. With names like that in the mix, you can be sure that this album is pure bluegrass. And best of all, her ever present enthusiasm for her music is alive and well.

07
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Little Sparrow

This is Dolly in her element. The sound is fresh and pure and totally relaxing and enjoyable to listen to. She received a Grammy for "Shine" and once again she invited some of the top names in bluegrass to join her. She also invited Irish sensation Altan to join her. The bluegrass and Celtic sounds are so closely related that he has been a part of a few of her projects. For this one, she did a remake of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road." Other great songs are "Marry Me," "Little Sparrow" and "I Get A Kick Out of You." But in all honesty I loved the whole album.
08
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Those Were The Days

I feel this album needs included because it is something Parton really wanted to do. She loves music of all kinds, and for this album she teams up with a variety of artists to cover some great songs of the 60's and 70's. Some are country, others are not. They are all really good. But some of her guests are Joe Nichols, Keith Urban, Nickel Creek and many more. And with songs like "Crimson & Clover," "Blowing in the Wind" and "Those Were the Days," you know you are in for a treat with this one.

09
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Heartsongs

This is another live album that was recorded at Dollywood. It is a 23 song collection of music close to Parton's heart. They are songs she grew up hearing and singing, and this is the album that started her road back to her roots. While talking to the audience, she says that this is the music she would have loved to make a living recording but couldn't. Now that she doesn't need the money anymore, she can record it. It is an excellent album and one I listen to frequently. "PMS Blues" is on this album as well as a few little ditties from the days she worked in radio when she was getting started as a young teen.
10
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Eagle When She Flies

This is another of my all time favorite albums from Dolly Parton. "Eagle When She Flies" is a great song lyrically and became a favorite as soon as I heard it. This album also has the duet with Ricky Van Shelton, "Rocking Years." It also includes a duet with Lorrie Morgan, "Best Woman Wins." It was a different sound for Dolly, but in my opinion it is a great album.