Dolly Parton Looks Ahead To New Music

Actress, country star works on album, contemplates touring.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Now enjoying a musical resurgence, actress and country music veteran Dolly Parton is looking forward to a new chapter in her music career.

After two decades without a solo tour, the singer, sitting in her apartment here on the grounds of Dollywood, a sprawling amusement park on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, said she is once again contemplating the road.

"If you had asked me a year ago about touring," she said, "the answer would have been different. But I think the time may be right now. I'm very fortunate that people are listening to my music." Touring details remain to be worked out, she said, but it is something she will pursue.

Parton, who in recent years has devoted much of her career to Hollywood, said she's also working on a new album — a follow-up to last year's acclaimed bluegrass disc The Grass Is Blue.

1999's equally acclaimed Trio II album, with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, reinvigorated her musical career and introduced her to new audiences. She shared a country Grammy with Harris and Ronstadt this year for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for "After the Gold Rush."

New Album A 'Bridge'

Her new album has the working title The Little Sparrow. Some of it, she said, harks back to her early sound in songs such as "Coat of Many Colors" (RealAudio excerpt), which was a country hit for her in 1971. " 'Coat of Many Colors' made me very popular in places like Ireland and Australia and England," she said.

" 'The Little Sparrow' is the title of a song that I wrote for the album," she said. "I actually took some of the lines from the old 'Fair and Tender Ladies' song. It's a real nice tune. This album will either be called Mountain Angel — there's a song by that name that I wrote — or The Little Sparrow.

"[The album] is kind of a bridge," she continued. "After everybody responded so well to the bluegrass album, I started to do a complete folk album, and then I thought, no, I'd better try to bridge it somewhere in between. So I'm doing some bluegrass things that I wrote and some traditional things. I'm doing 'I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby,' which the Louvin Brothers had a hit on, and I'm doing 'Seven Bridges Road,' and a few things like that that we're doing kind of bluegrassy. And then I wrote a few pieces that lend themselves to an Irish treatment, still in the old mountain sound. So, it's bluegrass, folk and Irish. I grew up singing that mountain music."

No release date has been set for the album.

Other Projects In The Works

Finally, Parton said she will be hosting next spring's Academy of Country Music Awards show in Los Angeles, after getting kudos for her job hosting the show this year. Her ad-libbed comments — including remarking on-air during the live telecast that show producer Dick Clark looked like he'd been preserved in formaldehyde — came easily to her, she said.

"The show got a real good response," she said, "and I like doing that kind of stuff. I hadn't done anything like that in a while, and I'm always comfortable in front of a live audience. It's hard to stump me. I don't care. The more mistakes I make the more fun I have, and people don't seem to mind. We didn't really have a script; we had some guidelines, but you know me — there's no way I can follow a script, and I've got to throw in everything that I can to try to be funny."

The formaldehyde remark, she said, "just jumped out on the spur of the moment. I knew I was gonna do a bit on him, but I wasn't sure what it would be. They wouldn't have allowed that, I'm sure. But I had fun with it, and I got a lot of comments on that."

Parton said she's also developing film projects. "Mainly I'll be doing movies of the week for TV with my production company," she said. "I'm doing a remake of the movie 'Solid Gold Cadillac' for [Turner Network Television], and I'm doing the movie 'Heavens to Betsy' for CBS this fall or winter. It's about two black girls and me; we have a group called Milk and Honey. It's a gospel musical that I wrote all the music for. And I may do a Christmas movie." (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns CBS.)