Backwoods Barbie

No matter how flamboyantly pop Dolly Parton's music became in the early Eighties, she was always a country girl at heart. Today it's the reverse: No matter how back-to-basics-country her recent albums have been, her heart still sparkles with glitter and sequins. Dolly practically invented the peppy Top Forty sound the Dixie Chicks are now known for, but her own pop albums are hit-or-miss. Too much of Backwoods Barbie, her mainstream country comeback, comes off like the overproduced twang of younger country ingenues who try to sound like Dolly Parton. And her cover of Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" is Disco Dolly at her cheesiest. The best songs are the no-frills ones, like the title track, an old-fashioned, autobiographical folk ballad about growing up poor and dreaming of being pretty, infused with milky pedal steel guitar. Dolly earns an extra half-star for the goofypun in "Better Get to Livin'" that only she could get away with: "Well,I'm not the Dalai Lama/But I'll try to offer up a few words of advice."If she asked the Dalai Lama, he'd probably advise that simplicity is the key to good country music in the modern world.