Anyone skeptical of a music career that’s been gradually obscured by Parton’s exuberance on talk show couches needs to pay attention to this archetypal album. The title track, about a mother’s love conquering poverty, is built on an image so central to Christians (the mother weaves a box of rags into a coat for her daughter) that it’s a wonder country’s voracious song sharks overlooked it for so long. It’s followed by “Traveling Man,” in which a girl and her mama chase the same no good guy (“The traveling man was a good bit older/ But a girl needs arms to hold her”), and “If I Lose My Mind,” in which Parton’s boyfriend cheats right in front of her eyes. Parton’s not above sentimentality, but it’s in constant battle with her feminist/realist leanings, and the whole package is tied together with a voice so crystaline it can’t help but crack a little when the going gets rough.
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