Review: Unlikely Angel by Lydia R Hamessley

Title: Unlikely Angel – The Songs of Dolly Parton

Author: Lydia R. Hamessley

Pages: 312 Pages

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

The Blurb

The creative process of a great American songwriter

Dolly Parton’s success as a performer and pop culture phenomenon has overshadowed her achievements as a songwriter. But she sees herself as a songwriter first, and with good reason. Parton’s compositions like “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene” have become American standards with an impact far beyond country music.

Lydia R. Hamessley’s expert analysis and Parton’s characteristically straightforward input inform this comprehensive look at the process, influences, and themes that have shaped the superstar’s songwriting artistry. Hamessley reveals how Parton’s loving, hardscrabble childhood in the Smoky Mountains provided the musical language, rhythms, and memories of old-time music that resonate in so many of her songs. Hamessley further provides an understanding of how Parton combines her cultural and musical heritage with an artisan’s sense of craft and design to compose eloquent, painfully honest, and gripping songs about women’s lives, poverty, heartbreak, inspiration, and love.

Filled with insights on hit songs and less familiar gems, Unlikely Angel covers the full arc of Dolly Parton’s career and offers an unprecedented look at the creative force behind the image.

The Review

Unlikely Angel is an appreciative look at the songs of Dolly Parton but without the distraction of the Dolly image. It is a celebration of song writing talent and musicality that exudes from Dolly Parton and seems to be part of her core existence. You cant have Dolly without her music. They are inherent, intertwined.

Hamessley looks at Dolly and her Apalachian roots and heritage and how time and place play an important roll in her music and how even now many years after Dolly has become a success we still see these roots in her music.

Unlikely Angel is an interesting read for Dolly fans. The one area which I felt it may struggle to find an audience is when Hamessley talks about the build up of music. By this I mean that if you don’t have a knowledge of music theory you can often become lost in the details. However, it was a good book that reveals more to Dolly Parton than the image might make you believe.

Unlikely Angel – The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley is available now.

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