A BIG HELLO FROM DOLLY

The coun­try artist brings her brand of down-home fun and warmth to the all-star MusiCares trib­ute.

Los Angeles Times - - THE GRAMMYS - MIKAEL WOOD POP MU­SIC CRITIC

Dolly Par­ton de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as only she could.

“It’s sort of like watch­ing porn,” she said of hav­ing her songs per­formed by the all-star cast of ad­mir­ers at Fri­day night’s an­nual MusiCares Per­son of the Year event. “You’re not per­son­ally in­volved, but you still get off on it.”

The first coun­try artist to re­ceive the Record­ing Academy’s high­est phil­an­thropic prize, Par­ton was cel­e­brated at the Los An­ge­les Con­ven­tion Cen­ter with a trib­ute con­cert fea­tur­ing Pink, Katy Perry, Kacey Mus­graves, Mi­ley Cyrus, Shawn Men­des, Garth Brooks, No­rah Jones and Don Hen­ley, among oth­ers.

And though the pre-Gram­mys ben­e­fit gala was as snazzy as usual — academy chief Neil Port­now said it raised more than $6.7 mil­lion for MusiCares’ var­i­ous as­sis­tance pro­grams — Par­ton brought a bawdy, down-home qual­ity to her ac­cep­tance speech that dis­tin­guished the evening from re­cent salutes to Lionel Richie and Fleet­wood Mac.

“I truly can feel the love in this house tonight,” she said. “Ei­ther that or my tele­phone’s on vi­brate.”

In­tro­duced by Em­my­lou Har­ris and Linda Ron­stadt, with whom she teamed in 1987 to make the “Trio” al­bum, Par­ton, 73, used her ad­dress to rem­i­nisce about her “won­der­ful jour­ney” from “the hills of East Ten­nessee to the Hollywood Hills.”

She also ac­knowl­edged the con­ver­sa­tion about fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the mu­sic in­dus­try.

“Peo­ple say to me, ‘Wasn’t it a man’s world back when you got in the business?’ I say, ‘It sure was — and, honey, I had a ball.’

“I have ac­tu­ally worked with so many won­der­ful men, and I’ve never met a man that I didn’t like,” she went on. “And I’ve never met a man whose ass I couldn’t kick if he didn’t treat me with the right re­spect.” She laughed.

“I also still have that pis­tol in my purse, and I can still change a rooster into a hen with one shot.”

The night’s best per­for­mances chan­neled Par­ton’s warmth and wit, as in Mavis Sta­ples’ soul­ful take on “Not Enough” and a bois­ter­ous ren­di­tion of “Here You Come Again” by Perry and Mus­graves, which seemed to hold to­gether mainly through good cheer.

Chris Sta­ple­ton of­fered up a sur­pris­ingly funky “9 to 5,” while Brandi Carlile and Wil­lie Nel­son teamed to do “Ev­ery­thing Is Beau­ti­ful (in Its Own Way).”

Sev­eral per­form­ers went a more re­fined route. With his wife, Tr­isha Year­wood, Brooks sang a lovely and in­ti­mate “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Can­dle to You,” which Par­ton her­self re­vived for a re­cent duet with Ke­sha. (Ke­sha’s mother, Pebe Se­bert, co-wrote the tune in the late ’70s.)

And Yolanda Adams was typ­i­cally el­e­gant in “I Will Al­ways Love You,” which she per­formed as some­thing of a cross between Par­ton’s orig­i­nal and Whitney Hous­ton’s in­deli­ble cover.

Hen­ley and Vince Gill were a bit stiff in “Ea­gle When She Flies,” as was Pink, whose “Jo­lene” needed more des­per­a­tion.

Backed by Mark Ron­son on gui­tar, Cyrus and Men­des har­mo­nized well in “Is­lands in the Stream,” though Men­des looked like he’d never heard the song be­fore in his life. (For­tu­nately for him, a gi­ant prompter at the back of the room pro­vided the lyrics.)

Af­ter her speech, Par­ton closed the show with “Coat of Many Col­ors” with ac­com­pa­ni­ment from Linda Perry, with whom Par­ton made the sound­track to last year’s “Dumplin’.”

The song, one of Par­ton’s most well known, re­calls a child­hood de­fined by ma­te­rial poverty and spir­i­tual wealth — mem­o­ries she also em­braced in her speech af­ter telling the crowd, “I have been in mu­sic for a long time, but it has been in me a lot longer.”

“I used to stand out on the porch back of my old Ten­nessee moun­tain home,” she said, “and put a to­bacco stick down in the crack in the floor, put a tin can on top of it and pre­tend like I was singing on the Grand Ole Opry.”

She made it easy to envi­sion even now.

Pho­to­graphs by Gina Fer­azzi Los An­ge­les Times

DOLLY PAR­TON hails the crowd af­ter singing “Coat of Many Col­ors” with ac­com­pa­ni­ment from Linda Perry at Fri­day’s MusiCares Per­son of the Year ben­e­fit.

KATY PERRY, left, and Kacey Mus­graves per­form at the preGram­mys trib­ute to Dolly Par­ton at the L.A. Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

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