All the makeup is gone on Little Sparrow: After a long spell as a bubbly Hollywood-Nashville celebrity with pop hits and a lot of TV work, Dolly Parton is making honest, uncut mountain music in sparkling acoustic settings. Surrounding herself with the cream of Southern bluegrass musicians — dobro master Jerry Douglas and guitar prodigy Bryan Sutton among them — Parton is by turns reflective ("Little Sparrow"), playful ("Marry Me"), dolorous ("My Blue Tears"), spirited ("I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby") and spiritual ("In the Sweet By and By") on this nearly hour-long modern-bluegrass tour de force. Parton gravitates toward sepulchral tales of doomed lovers and broken families that haunt the hill country — "Down From Dover" and "Mountain Angel" are downright gothic — but she lightens the mood with a near-definitive take of Steve Young's song of the South, "Seven Bridges Road," and a gospel-style recasting of Collective Soul's "Shine" that gives way to a virtuosic bluegrass rave-up. Throughout Little Sparrow, Parton's silvery, force-of-nature voice cuts to the heart of the matter, convincingly making the case that — famous literary dictum aside — you can go home again.
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