Dolly Parton, "Better Day"
On her second album for her Dolly Records, Dolly Parton puts on a big smile to cheer up scorned lovers and doomsday predictors, celebrate her work ethic and finally move on from bad situations. The album's dozen story songs-11 penned solely by Parton-are filled with uplifting sentiment and words of encouragement set against a variety of backdrops, most of them deeply rooted in country traditions rather than acquiescing to radio demands. Of course, it wouldn't be a Parton album if a few tunes didn't leap out and beg to be played on the radio: "Together You and I" marries a steady hand clap of a beat with a tasty blend of electric guitar and pedal steel, and "Holding Everything" is a midtempo duet with Kent Wells. Parton dabbles in gospel-blues on the title track, bluegrass on "Just Leaving" and a Texas two-step on "Country Is as Country Does," an overly self-referential tune she penned with Mac Davis. (On the song she proclaims, "I'm country to the core.") Parton's last album, "Backwoods Barbie" (2008), was her sassy return to mainstream country, and "Better Day" is another step in that musical direction.