By Ken Tucker
Updated July 10, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Parton is that rare singer who can make optimism seem like a viable philosophy. When country music goes upbeat, it often traffics in cornball novelty tunes, but Dolly plays her album full of love ‘n’ hope with straight-up sincerity. In the midst of hard economic times, the positive anthems that fill Better Day — all new material, no covers — come off as brilliant strategy, with some equally brilliant vocal performances. A-

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Joyous paean In the Meantime
Tuneful lullaby Missing You