Unlikely Angel

“A radiant entertainer finally gets her due as a composer and lyricist—and champion of resilience amid troubles.” Thus began a review in The Wall Street Journal of three books about Dolly Parton, including Professor of Music Lydia Hamessley’s Unlikely Angel – The Songs of Dolly Parton. The Jan.2 article titled “Here She Comes Again,” notes how Hamessley is especially attuned to the subtle ways in which Ms. Parton interweaves old and new musical strands and blends “incisive comments from Ms. Parton” with her own “close readings (and close listenings).”

Hamessley continues to analyze Parton’s blending of old and new, urban and country, in her essay written in celebration of Parton’s 75th birthday for Nashville’s Tennessean titled “How does Dolly Parton celebrate her birthday? Writing a Song, of course.

“How like Dolly to write a lonesome, broken-hearted love song steeped in her Appalachian memories while driving into Manhattan (“out on the street the traffic starts jumpin’”) to work on her urbane Broadway musical based on her first Hollywood film,” Hamessley writes. “Here was a moment where her worlds met: Dolly the glamorous singer embodying her mountain singer alter ego.”

Hamessley created a Spotify list of all of Parton’s songs about which she writes in her book. And to watch Hamessley present on Parton, the composer and lyricist, click here.

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