With all the other accomplishments and accolades Dolly Parton has accrued over her illustrious career, she can now add “novelist” to the list with the recent release of the book Run, Rose, Run co-written with bestselling author James Patterson. About a star on the rise singing about the hard life she left behind, the main character Rose goes to Nashville to claim her destiny, but also finds the darkness she fled waiting for her in Music City, and looking to destroy her aspirations.
Accompanying the novel, Dolly Parton also wrote and recorded this album, Run, Rose, Run. And that’s how this album should be considered—an accompaniment to the novel, not vice versa. Quite cinematic and theatrical in approach, instead of being populated with songs of autonomous or original inspirations, these are musical complements to certain moments from the written narrative, similar to what you might expect from a children’s movie or musical, even if the themes are more set in the young adult realm.
Reading the novel, or listening to the audiobook version is not necessary to enjoying some of this album’s top selections. It’s always worth getting excited about an appearance from Merle Haggard’s youngest song, Ben Haggard, and hearing him duet with Dolly on the song “Demons,” will give you shivers like you’re hearing the ghost of Ben’s father, and Dolly sounding no older than in the 70’s when Merle once booked Dolly as an opener so he could chase her around the tour bus for months.
“Woman Up (And Take It Like A Man)” is classic Dolly Parton writing, and a great song to add to her repertoire, even if a bit more contemporary than classic in sound. A country album for the most part, there are opportunities for Dolly Parton to express her wide range of skills and influences, whether it’s the classic country sound of “Lost and Found” with another excellent country voice in Joe Nichols, or the blazing bluegrass of “Dark Night, Bright Future,” bolstered with a little snare and electric guitar—one of numerous bluegrass-inspired songs on the album featuring members of The Isaacs and Daily & Vincent.
If nothing else, the above mentioned selections make Run, Rose, Run worth the effort to seek out, though within the 12-song track list, there are also songs that struggle to work autonomously by hanging on one single theme, or that are a little too obvious and repetitive in the writing, or that are beset with strange production decisions.
The opening song “Run” can’t stop saying “Run” to the point of redundancy. The I-I-I-I-I — I-I-I-I-I’s of “Drive” can drive you crazy, while the rest of the words deal in platitudes as opposed to poetry. “Snakes In the Grass” just feels downright silly, and like a host of the songs on this album, is set within these repetitive motions and obvious intentions that you usually only hear on soundtracks to kid’s movies.
Run, Rose, Run basically is a soundtrack though, and don’t be surprised if this project evolves into some sort of movie or theatrical production in the future, with these songs playing a significant role, and making more sense within context. But still, some selections of the album just bog down due to the approach. With a song like “Secrets,” it’s so easy to question the dated tone of the keyboards and guitars by the album’s co-producer Richard Dennison, who at times seems to think he’s making the music to an 80’s after school special as opposed to a general country audience.
Run, Rose, Run deserves to be graded on a curve, because again, it’s meant as a complement to a novel, not a standalone feature. But even without running opinions through the love we all have in our hearts for anything and everything Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run does include some quality songs and collaborations not to be overlooked, even if it doesn’t necessarily inspire you to run out and get a copy of the novel, and bury your nose in it post haste.
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