My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Dolly Parton – ‘White Limozeen’

Dolly Parton - White Limozeen (1989, Columbia Records)

Dolly Parton - White Limozeen (1989, Columbia Records)

By the late 1980s, Dolly Parton’s career was at a crossroads. She had ended a nearly 20 year association with RCA Records because she felt that she was no longer a priority at the label. Her first release for Columbia Records, a pop album entitled Rainbow was a critical and commercial failure. It had been released to coincide with the launch of her new ABC variety series, which was canceled after only one season due to low ratings. On the other hand, her Trio album, a collaboration with friends Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt had been a huge commercial success, surpassing everyone’s wildest expectations. After more than a decade of trying to bridge the gap between country and pop, it was time for a change in direction. The neotraditionalists were dominating on the country charts, so it seemed clear that it was time to return to her roots.

Dolly enlisted the help of some friends: Ricky Skaggs to produce the new album, and Mac Davis who co-wrote two songs with her for the new project, and was her duet partner for one of them. The result was White Limozeen, Dolly’s most solidly country solo album in over a decade. The lead single, the whimsical “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That”, reached #1 on Billboard’s country singles chart, the first Parton solo effort to do so since 1985’s “Think About Love”. The second single, “Yellow Roses”, written by Dolly and reminiscent of the type of records she’d made in the 1960s, also reached #1. Subsequent singles didn’t fare as well, but the album reached #3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and was later certified gold. White Limozeen was not only a commercial success; it helped Dolly regain some of the credibility she’d lost over the previous decade when she was trying to pursue a pop career.

The album opens with a “hicked-up” cover version of REO Speedwagon’s “Time For Me To Fly”, leading into the aforementioned “Yellow Roses”, “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That”, and a stunning version of Jim Rushing’s “Slow Healing Heart” with Skaggs singing harmony. Then the pace changes suddenly with “What Is It My Love”, a Parton composition with a string-quartet arrangement which was highly unusual in late-1980s neotraditionalist Nashville. This is the one song in the collection that sounded as if it could have been included on one of Dolly’s more pop-oriented albums.

The title track is a semi-autobiographical tale of a country girl who had made the big time in show business. The interesting spelling came about when the song was being composed. Dolly asked co-writer Mac Davis how to spell limousine. He told her to write it the way it sounded, so in a moment of silliness, she wrote down “limozeen” and it just kind of stuck.

The album closes with a soaring gospel number, “He’s Alive”. Dolly performed this song with the Christ Church Choir on the 1989 CMA Awards show. She received a standing ovation and the performance was so well received that Columbia was prompted to release the song as the album’s third single.

One minor disappointment with this album was the lack of a Dolly and Ricky Skaggs duet. Upon learning that Skaggs would be producing the album, I had hoped that they would include a duet number. Instead, a duet with Mac Davis (“Wait ‘Til I Get You Home”) was included. Skaggs did provide harmony vocals on a few tracks.

Twenty years after its release, White Limozeen has aged well. It was one of those projects that received both the critical and commercial accolades that it deserved, something that seems to happen less and less frequently nowadays. It set the standard for remainder of Parton’s tenure at Columbia, which continued until 1995. Although her earlier RCA recordings are the ones for which she is most remembered, every album that she did at Columbia, with the exception of 1987’s Rainbow, was solid work and indisputably country. White Limozeen was the turning point, and as such, it remains an important album in her catalog.

Grade: A

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7 responses to “Album Review: Dolly Parton – ‘White Limozeen’

  1. Occasional Hope April 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    This was the first solo Dolly Parton album I ever bought (I got Trio, and I appropriated one of Dolly’s 70s releases which my parents had). I must listen to it again when I get home.

    My personal favourite track is Slow Healing Heart, although I love Pattty Loveless’s version of that as well.

    • J.R. Journey April 12, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      This was the second Dolly album I got – with Eagle When She Flies being the first simply because it was the newest release when I started listening to country music.

      Great review of an excellent album though. ‘Slow Healing Heart’ and the Mac Davis duet are my favorites.

  2. Razor X April 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I’m listening to “Slow Healing Heart” right now.

  3. Leeann Ward April 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Yes, I enjoy this album too. I agree that it’s a shame that Ricky and Dolly didn’t have a duet on it.

  4. Erik April 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    This has never been one of my favorite Dolly albums, but I do find myself appreciating it more and more lately.

  5. Michael April 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Every Easter I bust out this CD to listen to “He’s Alive”. 🙂

  6. Erik Pettersen March 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I first came across this album when I was 12 and my English skills weren’t quite developed yet, which lead to me spelling “limousine” as “limozeen” until I was almost 19, when I figured out that “limozeen” was in fact not a permitted alternate spelling of the word. The power of Dolly!

    Musically, this album is a triumphant success. The production is marvellous and several tracks are some of her strongest – “Slow Healing Heart” and “What Is It My Love” in particular. I never did care for “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That” though.

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