The Grass Is Blue

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The Grass Is Blue
Grassisblue.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 26, 1999
RecordedAugust 1999
Studio
  • The Sound Kitchen (Nashville)
  • The Doghouse (Nashville)
GenreBluegrass
Length44:59
Label
ProducerSteve Buckingham
Dolly Parton chronology
Precious Memories
(1999)
The Grass Is Blue
(1999)
Little Sparrow
(2001)
Singles from The Grass Is Blue
  1. "A Few Old Memories"
    Released: October 1999
  2. "Silver Dagger"
    Released: February 2000

The Grass Is Blue is the thirty-seventh solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. It was released on October 26, 1999, by Sugar Hill and Blue Eye Records. The album won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album and "Travelin' Prayer" was nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

Background[edit]

Parton found herself without a record label for the first time in 30 years when Decca Records closed its Nashville office in early 1999, just months after the release of Hungry Again. Throughout the 1990s, she had been losing ground with country radio, though her album sales had remained strong for much of that time. The idea for the project was brought to Parton's attention one night in July 1999 when she was having dinner with Steve Buckingham. He mentioned to her that bluegrass fans, when asked which artist they would most like to make a bluegrass album, overwhelmingly cited her. Parton told Billboard, "We were both shocked, but then I thought, since I manage myself now and have my own label and can do what I want, why not do it?" By the end of August 1999, Parton had recorded the album in Nashville with Buckingham producing and top musicians such as Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Alison Krauss, and Rhonda Vincent accompanying. Speaking about the song selection, Parton said, "I've always loved bluegrass, having grown up in and around mountain music and bluegrass, so I chose some songs I've been singing all my life." Parton said of the recording process, "It went really fast because these are the world's best bluegrass pickers and singers, who've been doing these songs forever!"[1]

Content[edit]

The album includes a mixture of Parton originals and folk and bluegrass standards, as well as a Billy Joel cover. "Silver Dagger", a late nineteenth century ballad, had been popularized by Joan Baez during the early 1960s. Parton had originally written "Steady as the Rain" for her younger sister Stella Parton, who had a top 40 country hit with the song in 1979. "Will He Be Waiting for Me" is an updated version of a song which Parton originally recorded for her 1972 album, Touch Your Woman. The album also includes a cover of the Blackfoot song "Train, Train".

Release and promotion[edit]

The album was announced by Sugar Hill Records on August 24, 1999. In the press release, Parton was quoted saying,

Parton made several television appearances to promote the album. The day of the album's release she made an appearance on Live with Regis & Kelly.[3] She appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on November 2 and performed "Train, Train".[4] Television appearances continued in February 2000 to promote the album's second single, "Silver Dagger". Parton performed the single February 28 on the Late Show with David Letterman[5] and February 29 on Live with Regis & Kelly.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[7]
Austin Chronicle3 stars[8]
Robert Christgau(2-star Honorable Mention)(2-star Honorable Mention)[9]

Upon its release, the album received much praise among music critics. James Hunter of Rolling Stone gave a positive review of the album, saying, "On recent recordings like Trio II, with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, Parton has gone home, but not with the curled-tongue abandon she brings to The Grass Is Blue, where she re-tackles bluegrass, country and traditional songs with brio...it leaves the earth often...Without that almost punk-style independence, you can't have new legends, country or otherwise."[10] Writing for AllMusic, Philip Van Vleck gave to album 4.5 out of 5 stars and said that Parton has "always followed her own muse; this time it has led her to a singular interpretation of bluegrass that is one of the important bluegrass releases of 1999."[7] Jerry Renshaw reviewed the album for the Austin Chronicle and gave the album 3 stars, saying that "Parton's familiar vibrato soars over the mountain-music instruments like it was born to do just that."[8]

In addition to rejuvenating Parton's career, the album, along with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and the work of Alison Krauss, is credited with making bluegrass a hugely popular musical genre during the early 2000s.

Commercial performance[edit]

The album peaked at No. 24 on the US Billboard Top Country Albums chart and No. 198 on the US Billboard 200 chart. The album peaked at No. 8 on the UK OCC Country Albums chart. As of December 2003, the album has sold 195,000 copies in the United States.[11]

The first single, "A Few Old Memories", was sent to country radio stations in October 1999[12] and did not chart. "Silver Dagger" was sent to folk stations as the album's second single in February 2000[13] and did not chart.

Accolades[edit]

At the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards, the album won Best Bluegrass Album and "Travelin' Prayer" was nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.[14] The album won Album of the Year at the 2000 International Bluegrass Music Awards.

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Travelin' Prayer"Billy Joel4:16
2."Cash on the Barrelhead"3:08
3."A Few Old Memories"Hazel Dickens4:02
4."I'm Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open"Lester Flatt3:05
5."Steady as the Rain"Dolly Parton3:05
6."I Still Miss Someone"
3.38
7."Endless Stream of Tears"Parton2.40
8."Silver Dagger"Traditional4:55
9."Train, Train"Shorty Medlocke2:50
10."I Wonder Where You Are Tonight"Johnny Bond3:14
11."Will He Be Waiting for Me"Parton3:26
12."The Grass Is Blue"Parton3:45
13."I Am Ready"Rachel Parton Dennison2:45
Total length:44:59

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from the album liner notes.[15]

  • Barry Bales – bass, harmony vocals
  • Steve Buckingham – producer, rhythm guitar
  • Sam Bush – mandolin, harmony vocals
  • Tim Campbell – recording studio photos
  • Jennie Carey – production assistant
  • Dennis Carney – cover photography
  • Jerry Douglas – dobro, harmony vocals
  • Rob Draper – recording studio photo
  • Stuart Duncan – fiddle, harmony vocals
  • Sandy Jenkins – assistant engineer
  • Alison Krauss – harmony vocals
  • Keith Little – harmony vocals
  • Parry Loveless – harmony vocals
  • Claire Lynch – harmony vocals
  • Sue Meyer – album design
  • Jim Mills – banjo
  • Marshall Morgan – additional engineering
  • Louis Nunley – harmony vocals
  • Alan O'Bryant – harmony vocals
  • Gary Paczosa – recording, mixing
  • Dolly Parton – lead vocals, harmony vocals
  • Cheryl Riddle – hair
  • Doug Sax – mastering
  • Toby Seay – additional engineering, digital editing
  • Bryan Sutton – guitar
  • Chuck Turner – digital editing
  • Dan Tyminski – harmony vocals
  • Darrin Vincent – harmony vocals
  • Rhonda Vincent – harmony vocals

Charts[edit]

Chart (2001) Peak
position
UK Country Albums (OCC)[16] 8
US Billboard 200[17] 198
US Top Country Albums (Billboard)[18] 24

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
US & Canada October 26, 1999
[19]
Europe March 1, 2000 [20]
Various January 3, 2006 Digital download [21]
US & Canada April 18, 2015 LP [22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Billboard - September 25, 1999" (PDF). American Radio History. Billboard. p. 34. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. ^ "The Grass Is Blue - Press release". www.dollymania.net. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Live with Regis & Kelly - Episode #12.42". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  4. ^ "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Episode #7.186". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Late Show with David Letetrman - Episode dated 28 February 2000". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Live with Regis & Kelly - Episode dated 29 February 2000". Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b Van Vleck, Phillip. The Grass Is Blue at AllMusic
  8. ^ a b Renshaw, Jerry. "Dolly Parton The Grass Is Blue (Sugar Hill)". www.austinchronicle.com. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Dolly Parton". Robert Christgau.
  10. ^ Hunter, James; Hunter, James (3 February 2000). "The Grass Is Blue". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Ask Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Dollymania October 1999 News Archive". www.dollymania.net. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Dollymania February 2000 News Archive". www.dollymania.net. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  14. ^ "Dolly Parton". GRAMMY.com. 15 February 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue". Discogs. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  16. ^ "Official Country Artists Albums Chart Top 20". Official Charts Company.
  17. ^ "Dolly Parton Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  18. ^ "Dolly Parton Chart History (Top Country Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  19. ^ "Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue - Amazon.com Music". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue (Europe) - Amazon.com Music". Sugar Hill. 1 March 2000. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  21. ^ "Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue (Digital Download) - Amazon.com Music". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue (LP)". Discogs. Retrieved 29 May 2019.