On Dolly Parton’s My Tennessee Mountain Home.
What Novalis says about philosophy—that in reality, it is a homesickness—is true also of country music, though philosophers and country singers have different ideas about what home is. In philosophy, home is a state of perfect understanding. Philosophers, Novalis writes, long to “be at home everywhere.” Country singers, on the other hand, long not so much for the outside world—or, for that matter, the world to come—but rather for the world as they once knew it, typically in childhood. The philosopher hopes for a home she’s never seen while the country singer mourns for the home she may never see again.
Of all the homesick country albums by all the homesick country singers, few explore homesickness more searchingly than Dolly Parton’s My Tennessee Mountain Home. In eleven bittersweet songs, lasting a little over thirty-three minutes total, Dolly revisits the fraught days after she first moved to Nashville, when the future was a stranger, the past a dear friend, and the present a disorienting swirl of memories and dreams.
The circumstances surrounding the making of My Tennessee Mountain Home are worth noting. The album was Dolly’s eleventh solo release, and yet it was sort of a second debut. In the six years since the first, 1967’s Hello, I’m Dolly, she had become best known not as a soloist but as Porter Wagoner’s duet partner and deferential sidekick on the popular syndicated TV program The Porter Wagoner Show. Read More