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Letter to Heaven: Songs of Faith & Inspiration

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iTunes Review

While Dolly Parton’s outsized public image has made her seem larger than life, she is, at heart, one of the finest country singers of the past century. Her voice is a marvel, able to convey empathy and sadness, joy and triumph all with a conviction that makes her music a joy to behold. She has never sung a false note. She has had musical arrangements that have sometimes surrounded her with unfortunate results, but that is not the case here. These songs of spiritual concern, culled mostly from her 1971 albums The Golden Streets of Glory and Joshua and 1972’s Love Is Like a Butterfly, feature some of country’s most seasoned session musicians from steel guitarist Pete Drake to pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins. Porter Wagoner duets with Parton on “Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man” and produced her hit single “The Seeker” (featured here in a new edit). A country standard such as “Wings of a Dove” and the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art” sound perfectly at home with rousing back-up vocalists supporting Parton’s spot-on vocal performances.

Customer Reviews

Parton’s 1971 album of faith and praise + 7 bonuses

Letter to Heaven returns to print 1971’s Golden Streets of Glory, Dolly Parton’s first full album of inspirational song. The seventeen tracks of this 45-minute collection include the album’s original ten and six bonuses cherry-picked from Parton’s albums and singles of the 1970s. As a treat for collectors, the original album session track “Would You Know Him (If You Saw Him) is released here for the first time. The latter is among Parton’s most compelling vocals in the set, and a real mystery as to how it was left off the original release. Parton wrote or co-wrote ten of the seventeen titles and puts her vocal stamp on standards (“I Believe”), country (“Wings of a Dove”), gospel (“How Great Thou Art”) and classic spirituals (“Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” here reworked as “Comin’ For to Carry Me Home”). The album’s originals are surprisingly generic songs of faith and praise, unsatisfying in comparison to the following year’s brilliant “Coat of Many Colors.” The bonus tracks fare much better. Parton’s tribute to her grandfather, “Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man” is joined by memories of childhood church-going in “Sacred Memories.” Her appreciation of creation’s majesty, “God’s Coloring Book” is personal and intimate, and “Letter to Heaven” retains its power to evoke a lump in your throat forty years after it was recorded. Producer Bob Ferguson dials back his Nashville Sound to light arrangements of country, soul and gospel; the twang is still minimized, but neither the strings nor backing choruses overwhelm. RCA Legacy’s single-CD reissue includes recording details and liner note by Deborah Evans Price. Fans will be glad to have this back in print, but those new to the Parton catalog might check out other key album reissues first, such as Coat of Many Colors, Jolene, or My Tennessee Mountain Home. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Biography

Born: January 19, 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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