Dolly Parton’s 47th studio album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, is a combination of Christmas classics and original songs. The 12-track album perfectly encapsulates what Christmas is about. Yes, it’s about Jesus and family and having compassion for those that have less than you, but it’s also about wine and presents and glitter. As ever, Dolly has read the room and delivered exactly what the world needs right now.
A Holly Dolly Christmas is a welcome respite after a turbulent, unpredictable year. One thing that has remained the same in 2020 is that Dolly Parton has continued to be the gift that keeps giving. From her $1 million donation to fund research for the coronavirus vaccine to her refusal to weigh in on the US elections — ‘I don’t do politics… I’m an entertainer’ — Dolly has shown why she remains a legend.
It is hard to deliver a balanced and unbiased review. I grew up in a house with a mother whose love for country music, and Dolly in particular, ran deeper than the Mississippi River. She was so determined her children would one day be country singers, she gave us all Southern states as middle names. But it isn’t just country fanatics that should buy Dolly’s latest offering. If you have ever been in love, or lonely, or praised God for giving us his only son, or had a snowball thrown at you, then this album will resonate.
Sure, there isn’t a single song on the album that feels it could be a lasting, memorable hit, but this is a Christmas album and that isn’t really the point of Christmas albums. The combination of Dolly and Willie Nelson’s voices on ‘Pretty Paper’ is so effortlessly beautiful, you don’t really realize the song is about wrapping paper. And when she sings ‘It’s a holly, Dolly, Christmas folly’ in ‘Christmas on the Square’, the joyous cackle that follows is as much of a trademark as her ability to laugh at herself. She knows the caricature she has cultivated over her 50-year career is a joke to some, but after selling 100 million albums, Dolly has proven time and time again she always has the last laugh.
A Holly Dolly Christmas has all the necessary components for a successful Christmas album: songs about Jesus (‘Mary, Did You Know?’ and ‘Circle of Love’), songs about compassion and gratitude (‘Christmas is’); and of course, no Christmas album is complete these days without an appearance from Michael Bublé (‘Cuddle Up’, ‘Cozy Down Christmas’). It even features a rendition of Mariah Carey’s cult classic ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ featuring the chatshow host Jimmy Fallon: an unexpected choice, but as a die-hard Dolly fan I am accustomed to expecting the unexpected.
As the government continues to play cat and mouse with our civil liberties, we don’t know how Christmas will pan out this year, but I know one thing for sure, if I have A Holly Dolly Christmas on repeat, it will certainly be a happy one. Dolly perfectly encapsulates how I and millions of others feel about her when she sings ‘All the joy you bring to my life is sweeter than a silver bell’ in ‘Christmas Where We are’. And I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but Dolly dressed as a bauble on the album cover in a scarlet satin and diamanté ensemble really is the icing on the Christmas cake.