Dolly Parton had a number of hits in the late '60s as Porter Wagoner's duet partner, yet solo success eluded her until her 1971 album Coat of Many Colors. The title track was a Top Ten single, and it effectively became her signature song, largely because it was a sweetly autobiographical tune about her childhood. That song, along with its two hit predecessors, "Traveling Man" and "My Blue Tears," were evidence that Parton was a strong songwriter, but the full album reveals the true depth of her talents. She wrote seven of the ten songs (Wagoner wrote the other three), none of which is filler. There isn't really a theme behind Coat of Many Colors, even if its title track suggests otherwise. Instead, it's a remarkably consistent album, in terms of songwriting and performances, but also remarkably diverse, revealing that Dolly can handle ballads, country-rockers, tearjerkers, and country-pop with equal aplomb. And while it is very short, clocking in at under a half-hour, there isn't a wasted moment on the album. It's a lean, trim album that impresses because of succinctness -- with its ten songs, it announced Parton as a major talent in her own right, not merely a duet partner.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine