As she cruises into her mid-sixties, it’s comforting to know that Dolly Parton has lost none of her joy and vitality, and her 41st studio album, Better Day, released on her own Dolly Records imprint, is an energetic, spirited, and hopeful outing that rocks and soars with enough musical sunshine to light up even the grayest day. It simply crackles with joy and hope, and where in lesser hands such boundless good will might seem artificially forced and naïve, Parton pulls it off because, well, she’s Dolly Parton. Lost sometimes in her status as a pop and country icon is the fact that Parton has always written good songs, and she penned all 12 here, and her longtime guitar player Kent Wells, who produced things, has given her a big and bright contemporary country sound that should garner her a good deal of radio time in a fair and equitable world. There are several gems here, including the rocking and soaring opener, “In the Meantime,” the simply lovely “Somebody’s Missing You,” which features background vocals from Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, and the clever title tune, “Better Day,” which starts off with a spoken intro from Parton before morphing into a blues, and it is easily the most positive and hopeful blues song anyone is ever likely to hear. Parton has stated that there’s enough trouble and bad news in the world these days and that she wanted to record the brightest and most hopeful album she could make, and she’s done that. Better Day has the feel and tone of gospel, the rock and punch of contemporary country-pop, and it stays steadfast in its mission to add something positive to the world. She may be a senior citizen as far as the IRS is concerned, but Parton has never sounded fresher or more spirited, and with “Somebody’s Missing You” in particular, she shows she still knows how to write a timeless song.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett