Today’s POP RESCUE from a potential loveless future, is the 10-track 1990 Dolly Parton holiday album, Home For Christmas. It was released exactly 24 years since the date of this review. Does this album bring festive cheer, or should you lock the doors and pretend you’re not home? Read on…
This is Dolly’s second Christmas album – her last was 1984’s duet album with Kenny Rogers – Once Upon A Christmas, but unlike that one (which I have heard), this one doesn’t contain any original songs. Every track is a well-known Christmas number.
The album opens with the classic First Noel – beginning with Dolly reminiscing her childhood. Then, the congregation of The New Salem Methodist Church begin singing – a familiar sound, pitched against a piano. This feels like a lovely personal and warm beginning to the album. About 1:40 min the studio recording takes over, and Dolly pitches a perfect rendition with piano.
Bouncing along, with a truly Country music twang, is Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Dolly really sounds like she’s having a lot of fun with this song. Sadly one line ‘Ah, he’s gonna fiddle around’ (said during a fiddle solo) felt a bit awkward, but otherwise, this song is a great romp through this classic.
Up next is a wonderfully jazzy I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and Dolly makes light work of the vocals here. She’s backed with strings, piano, double bass and some male backing vocalists. It’s rich, perfectly paced.
Dolly teaches a group of kids about the next song – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a lovely gentle, light, version, with acoustic guitars, fiddle, dobro, and a lovely mandolin section. With some encouragement, the kids join in for the last 1/3rd of the song.
Dolly takes a more Country music preaching tone with track Go Tell It On The Mountain – a song that I remember from primary school. Fortunately for her version, there’s Bobby Jones & Nashville choir, and the track takes a faster pace for a gospel-styled ending.
Acoustic guitars and drums introduce The Little Drummer Boy. This is a slow number, and again Dolly is supported by the Bobby Jones & Nashville choir. I’ve never really enjoyed this song – regardless of who does it.
We Three Kings is up next, and the delicate tones of a hammered dulcimer really make this a joy to listen to, and it’s soon joined by mandolin. Dolly’s vocals really fit perfectly with this song. I think that this is probably the best version of this song I’ve heard.
Sleigh bells and kids usher in the classic track Jingle Bells, and there’s a genuine feeling of fun, and you can almost hear everyone smiling whilst singing this song. Dolly even manages a giggle during a chorus. It’s short and sweet, and that’s perfect.
The fiddle returns for a slow, perhaps a little sad, country music tinged version of O Little Town Of Bethlehem. This version follows an arrangement that I’ve not heard before. The fiddle and mandolin suit this arrangement perfectly, as does the country styling.
The album closes with Joy To The World, which opens with guitar and piano. Dolly’s vocals are backed again by The New Salem Methodist Church congregation, and they are joined by The Christ Church Pentecostal Choir, all of which gives a great range of vocal and depth. The album closes, just as it opened, with The New Salem Methodist Church congregation singing with their piano, and Dolly giving a Christmas message of love.
This feels like a short album, but it’s simply a wonderfully cosy, sweet, Christmas album, and Dolly makes it the perfect Christmas gift. And if that wasn’t enough, Dolly released it (like her previous Christmas album with the late Kenny Rogers), with a TV special, which is definitely worth a watch (see above).
Every one of the 5 stars are deserved, and I wish there was a 6th. Essential listening.
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 5 / 5
- 1990 UK CHART POSITION: Did not chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £3.49 from an eBay seller.
Based on all of the Dolly Parton albums that we have reviewed so far, we are able to calculate her average album score as 4.5 out of 5.
This puts her in the top 7% of all of the artists we’ve ever reviewed.