Black Music Matters Festival

Parton, Etheridge aren't afraid to be themselves in CMT taping

Hollywood, Cal., Oct. 8, 2003

By Dan MacIntosh

HOLLYWOOD, CAL. - Dolly Parton wasn't sure if the stage manger wanted her to move on, or just do the song over. So right before embarking on her second take with Melissa Etheridge's "Come To My Window," she stated with confidence, "I'm straight now."

To which Etheridge replied, "I'm not." This crowed, which was already primed to have fun, laughed heartily along with these singers after Etheridge's lighthearted sexual preference joke.

And while Parton had many kind words to say about Etheridge's songwriting, the focus this night was clearly on Dolly's own body of work. It's not hard to notice how much of Parton's straight-talking approach has rubbed off on Etheridge's painfully honest work. So while they both may travel different musical roads, Parton and Etheridge's paths each lead to a place where sincerity has the last word.

The set list for this CMT Crossroads taping alternated between Parton and Etheridge songs, with the exception of one cover (Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line") thrown in for good measure.

About the only time Parton's singing took fire on an Etheridge song came with her powerful vocal for "Bring Me Some Water." Not surprisingly, Parton wasn't as familiar with Etheridge's material, as Etheridge was with Dolly Parton country classics. But since nobody was keeping score here, this didn't really matter.

Whenever Etheridge dug into a Parton tune, she did so in her own voice, rather than trying to be pretend twang. So the inherent anger of "Jolene" fit Etheridge's musical profile perfectly, yet she revealed a rarely seen tender side with "Coat of Many Colors." Etheridge is not a great natural singer, but because there's a whole lot of fire in her belly, she never sings anything half-assed.

Both girls, who showed a sincere camaraderie toward one another throughout, sang "I Walk The Line" and "9 To 5" as duets. Prior to performing "I Walk The Line," Parton told a cute story about how she once had a big crush on Johnny back when she was much younger. With "9 To 5," the singers had the audience standing, clapping and singing along.

Dolly Parton and Melissa Etheridge may not have a lot of musical similarities in common, but they're both women who have never been afraid to be themselves. This made tonight's show-taping into an evening which featured two inspirational female figures, performing a brief set of inspirational music.