The Fairest of Them All

by: Dolly Parton

The Fairest of Them All lacks any of Dolly Parton’s early masterpieces -- and it even lacks a major hit single, with the opening “Daddy Come and Get Me” getting no further than 40 on the charts -- but song-for-song it’s one of her strongest early LPs, a testament to her knack for creating finely-honed character sketches and vignettes. Perhaps the best known of these is “Down from Dover,” which Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood would soon cut and Dolly later revived; it’s a haunting, exquisitely told tale of a pregnant teenager and it’s at once the peak and the anomaly of the album, crystallizing Dolly’s eye for detail but departing somewhat from the spirited country and bluegrass of the rest of the record. As such, it’s the most obvious example of the depth of Dolly’s work here but the rest of The Fairest of Them All carries a similar lasting power, her stories of heartbroken survivors drawn with precision and delivered with bustling, soulful arrangements that can sometimes camouflage the pain. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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