Dolly Parton

Little Sparrow

Blue Eye/Sugar Hill

Though not as consistently fine as last year’s The Grass Is Blue, Parton’s second Appalachian-style CD is still excellent. Her vocals get a bit preciously whispery sometimes, but Alison Krauss’ supporting harmonies keep her on track. Parton wrote six of the songs including the title cut; its evocation of ancient balladry in melody and lyric sets the tone for what follows. Krauss, Jerry Douglas (resophonic guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and Jim Mills (banjo) provide first-rate backup. Ciaran Tourish, Dermot Byrne, Daihi Sproule and Maired Ni Mhaonaighi from Altan play on three cuts, including the transcendent “In the Sweet By and By.” Parton demonstrates the close connection between Irish and Appalachian traditions with a verse sung in Gaelic by Ni Mhaonaighi and a lullaby fade-out that feels like counties Harlan and Clare. This daring album should interest bluegrass, country and Irish music fans.