Critical acclaim met the folkloric acoustics of 1991's The Grass is Blue and 2001's Little Sparrow, in part because they were refreshing glimpses into the past of a genre — country music — that, like popular music, was becoming plagued by the consequences of the modern conception of music as a commercial enterprise. Both albums were also hauntingly beautiful — proof that seasoned musicianship can bask in the giddy pleasure of making the music that feels right.

Dolly Parton: A "Backwoods Barbie" with a Ph.D. in pop sensibilities.
Dolly Parton: A "Backwoods Barbie" with a Ph.D. in pop sensibilities.

Dolly's voice, still immaculate, is her best instrument, but not her only one: For this tour, she doses her act liberally with traces of dulcimer, autoharp, electric guitar and piano, all of which she can play skillfully. The second half of the "Backwoods Barbie" show — the pop half — is the one reviewers are talking about, but the magical window into a country queen's world has always transcended whatever anyone has to say about Dolly.

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