"A towering wedding cake of syrupy excess and Elvis-in-Vegas naffness": Dolly Parton's Rockstar is monumentally hideous, yet strangely glorious

Country queen Dolly Parton rocks out with McCartney, Halford, Tyler, Jett and a cast of thousands

Dolly Parton: Rockstar album art
(Image: © Big Machine)

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Thundering over the horizon like a stampeding herd of glittery elephants, Dolly Parton’s forty-ninth studio album is a 30-track sprawl of guitar-revving soft rock originals, classic cover versions and superstar duets. It is also the 77-year-old Queen Of Country’s most deranged project yet, a towering wedding cake of syrupy excess and Elvis-in-Vegas naffness. 

Seven decades of rock and pop history are mulched together here, from a huge treacle-drenched Let It Be featuring Paul and Ringo, to hen-party karaoke versions of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Stairway to Heaven, Purple Rain, We Are The Champions, Free Bird and more. 

Applying normal critical standards here seems futile, but it is worth noting that Parton’s tremulous, twangy voice retains its piercing emotional power even at maximum cheese levels. There are some unexpectedly lovely moments too, such as the Parton-penned power ballad My Blue Tears featuring Simon Le Bon’s luminous harmonising. Rockstar is not unprecedented – Parton previously covered Dylan and Bon Jovi, as well as duetting with Rod Stewart, Neil Young and others.

But what other living icon could unite Joan Jett, Sting, Rob Halford, Lizzo, Nikki Sixx, Steven Tyler, Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks, Elton John and more across a single album like this? Amazingly, Dolly even managed to dodge the obligatory Dave Grohl cameo. A monumentally hideous, yet strangely glorious album. Some might say it goes up to 11.

Read our interview with Dolly Parton about the making of Rockstar in the new issue of Classic Rock

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.