A review of Run, Rose, Run
Dolly Parton explores a new realm of musical storytelling, albeit safely
May 5, 2022
Five years after the release of her last non-holiday album, I Believe in You, country music legend Dolly Parton added another new creative feat to her collection: the release of a novel-album crossover. Made public on March 4th, 2022, Run, Rose, Run serves as the complement music album to a novel of the same name, co-authored by Parton and James Patterson.
Patterson and Parton’s novel sets forth a narrative of an emerging country star, chasing her dreams in Nashville and traversing obstacles in the music industry.
Despite the fact that the novel’s story hinges on a developed cliché – the story of a rising star, attached to her hometown, yet searching for novelty in the big city – Parton revitalizes the story with freshness through this collection of songs.
The album’s first song (“Run”) plays to Parton’s strengths as she tells an engaging, true-hearted story. The upbeat percussion and lyrical repetition of “run” construct a scene that cleverly mimics the pointed rhythms of horse hooves beating at the ground – a gallop of sorts.
And within the album, these musical easter eggs are plentiful. For instance, some songs employ clever sound-play that contribute to a more prominent storytelling experience; “Snakes In The Grass” highlights the hiss of serpents layered between instrument tracks, while “Blue Bonnet Breeze” samples the sound of a light gusty wind. And whether intentional or not, the way Parton sings “firecracker” in the lively song of the same name sounds a whole lot like a firecracker.
Yet, perhaps the most standout single on the album is “Blue Bonnet Breeze,” which strays from the typical country sound for a more unconventional take on the genre. The song’s chord structure is the most atypical on the album, but also the most effective. The quick yet swift guitar cadences add a new layer of slow reflection to Parton’s heavily boisterous album.
Though, this is just one song on the album. While reminiscent of a nostalgic country air, Parton’s album possesses a peculiar shortcoming; out of the 12 tracks, nine of them are in the key of C major. Now, I admit I am not well-versed in the old and new conventions of country music, and this correlation could very well reflect a tradition in the industry.
Notwithstanding this, however, the mere statistic that 75% of the album’s tracks are in the same key feels a bit safe, as if many of the tracks purposefully avoid delving into the unknown. Especially for music albums today, though artists should advocate for their own style within each track, a variety in chord progressions, tempos, and styles can adorn a record with distinctive musicality, while also being a testament to an artist’s versatility.
I admit that these familiarities could just be Parton’s signature sound, and producers may have thought changing her style would make no sense for Parton and her 55-year-long career. Still, the worldwide success of “Jolene” superseded the generic stylizations of country music to which Parton adheres today – and its boldness and finesse were aptly rewarded.
Run, Rose, Run overall displays another successful addition to Parton’s sizable discography, regardless of its tendencies to play it safe. I enjoyed listening to Parton keep her music alive through the album’s songwriting and lyricism.