Dolly Parton: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press/Newscom
July 16, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Halos and Horns

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Dolly Parton
Sugar Hill

OK, maybe it’s not that weird for Dolly Parton to cover a tune by Led Zeppelin’s epic ”Stairway to Heaven” on her new bluegrass collection, ”Halos & Horns.” The 56-year-old country legend did dip her toe into rock with her cover Collective Soul’s ”Shine” on last year’s ”Little Sparrow.” (Hey, Dolly, there are some Incubus songs you might like, for next time.) Besides, she had the approval of ”Stairway”’s composers, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who let her add some new lyrics of her own.

Plant acknowledges that Parton and Zeppelin make an uncomfortable fit. ”You know, it’s just so kinda odd that the artist and the elements are not in tune,” Plant tells Still, he praises the overall result. ”You know, the thing is that she’s not wailing — she’s keeping it within the genre, and she’s a good singer. Maybe she didn’t get the last bit properly, and maybe that’s sort of how the idioms have changed so much, that maybe it doesn’t matter — maybe that’s the way to do it.”

Plant notes that Led Zeppelin did its own not-exactly-reverent covers of classic blues tunes, ”with ‘You Shook Me’ or ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ or whatever it was. It’s just trying to move it ’round a couple, 15 degrees around from magnetic north.” Plant will be putting his own new spin on his classic tunes when goes on tour at the end of this week (he’ll be opening for the Who) in support of ”Dreamland,” his first solo album in nine years, which is being released today.

Anyway, Parton’s ”Stairway” can’t be as odd as the version by Dread Zeppelin, the novelty/parody act that covers Zep tunes in reggae-meets-Elvis arrangements. Does anybody remember laughter?

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