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Letter to Heaven: Songs of Faith & Inspiration

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Album Review

Dolly Parton’s Letter to Heaven: Songs of Faith and Inspiration on Sony/Legacy is welcome for two reasons. First, it contains a completely remastered version of her stellar 1971 album The Golden Streets of Glory, one of the finest collections of spiritual material to come out of the “Nashville sound" period. Recorded in 1970, it was produced by Bob Ferguson, one of the era’s founding fathers. The ten songs from this album contain three fine Parton originals: a genuine honky tonking gospel song “Master’s Hand,” the two-step country gospel title track, and “Lord Hold My Hand.” The rest contains reverent nuggets like “I Believe” and “How Great Thou Art.” Other pluses include the strident “Book of Life,” written by Parton’s grandfather, the Reverend Jake Robert Owens, and the now classic “On the Wings of a Dove,” written by Ferguson. The players on these sessions are now legends: steel guitarist Pete Drake, guitarist Chip Young, bassist Bobby Dyson, pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, fiddler Johnny Gimble, and a fantastic backing chorus. The second reason Letter to Heaven is welcome relates to the remaining five tracks, which were also released in the early '70s: compiler Rob Santos did right to keep the proceedings in the context of the era, despite Parton's many gospel songs written and performed since that time. These five songs were either written or co-written by her. Ferguson produced all but the last tune, her number two single “The Seeker,” which was produced by Porter Wagoner. Wagoner also co-wrote and duets with Parton on “Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man,” dedicated to her aforementioned grandfather. “Would You Know Him (If You Saw Him)” was recorded for previous album sessions but left unused. Parton’s famed “Comin’ for to Carry Me Home” with its cracking rhythm section is here; it charted as a single in 1971. “Letter to Heaven" from 1971’s Joshua album and “Sacred Memories” from 1972’s Love Is Like a Butterfly round it out. All assembled, it offers a portrait of Parton during the period that may have faded from memory but underscores her reputation as a legend in country music.


Born: 19 January 1946 in Locust Ridge, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

It's difficult to find a country performer who has moved from her country roots to international fame more successfully than Dolly Parton. Her autobiographical single "Coat of Many Colors" shows the poverty of growing up one of 12 children on a rundown farm in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. At 12 years old, she was appearing on Knoxville television; at 13 she was recording on a small label and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. Her 1967 hit "Dumb Blonde" (which she's not) caught Porter Wagoner's ear, and...
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