Dolly Parton Little Sparrow

For those who have had a single-minded view of Parton as the queen of white trash, the past few years have shown she is as vital a musical force as she has ever been. Last year's The Grass Is Blue was an especially powerful return to the simple music of her youth, and Little Sparrow continues in that vein, showcasing Parton's unstoppable voice and some outstanding picking from her band. The beauty of Parton's recent musical turn is that it seems she's realised that she's one of the few major artists able to authentically convey the essence of early 20th century mountain music. Of course, she does get off course occasionally - a bluegrass treatment of Collective Soul's "Shine" comes out of left-field, and I'm not sure we need another version of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" - but for the most part, the results are as good as bluegrass gets nowadays. The title track has the otherworldly qualities of classic old-time recordings while "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby" and "Marry Me" resound with back porch interplay. I still find it odd to recommend a Dolly Parton album, but this album has finally erased the stigma of calling myself a fan. (Sugar Hill)