Live and Well

by: Dolly Parton

Released simultaneously on CD and DVD (both feature the same program), Dolly Parton's 2002 tour, her first in a decade, is captured for posterity for the majority of her fans who couldn't make it to one of the only 13 shows she did. Riding high from a well-received trilogy of late-'90s/early-'00 albums that found the singer/songwriter reinvigorated both artistically and commercially by a return to her hillbilly origins, the show is an especially exuberant performance. Backed by a predominantly acoustic group only identified as Gary Davis and the Blueniques (individual members are anonymous), Parton runs through two hours of faithfully reproduced but agreeably stripped down, bluegrassy versions of hits such as "Jolene," "Coat of Many Colors" and "9 to 5" with a healthy dose of more recent rootsy fare. Dolly is in fine fettle throughout, chatting with the rapturous audience, making jokes and generally hamming it up with her good-natured but obviously rehearsed between-song patter. While some of this is fine and captures the joyous mood, more judicious pruning would make this a better listening experience, especially after the first time around when the jokes and asides are no longer fresh. Having to endure hearing the audience stumble through a "9 to 5" singalong is no fun and should have been cut from the running time. Ditto for a quick run-through of songs that didn't make it, which was probably amusing at the time but not something you'd want to relive. A sprightly a cappella medley of once-slick hits, a terrific version of Collective Soul's "Shine," and an ebullient set closing cover of Zepp's "Stairway to Heaven" -- all of which tap into Parton's spiritual and gospel roots -- best show her and the band's talents. Although this effectively documents the gig and the star's irrepressible personality, better editing could have reduced the album to a stunning single disc instead of a bloated and occasionally inconsistent double. ~ Hal Horowitz

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