A year after the failure of her highly touted network TV show, Dolly Parton has returned to her roots: the country music she learned growing up in a two-room Smoky Mountain shack.
The 43-year-old performer, celebrating her 25th year as an entertainer, has just released her 50th album, "White Limozeen."Parton, raised in an east Tennessee hollow where she was the fourth of 12 children, says the LP is a departure from her pop music megahit with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream."
"It's very country," she said in an interview. "It's a good album for me to do at this time. It's very true to what I do best. It captures a lot of the old sound I used to do years and years ago."
It is her second album since "Trio," a Grammy-winning, million-selling collaboration with two partners of vocal purity: Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
"The `Trio' album kind of set up the pace for this one," Parton said. "It's what the public has been wanting me to do for awhile."
Her one-hour ABC variety show, which was not renewed for a second season, didn't deserve to stay on the air, she said. "The show was very confusing. It never found a direction no matter how hard I tried. It never came together, never jelled because it was so disjointed.
"I wanted the show to be something like `Hee Haw' when it started. But it was more like hem haw; that's all everybody did - hem and haw."
She recently revived her acting career, joining Sally Field, Shirley Mac-Laine and others in the movie "Steel Magnolias." Based on the Broadway play and due for release in late summer, it's about a group of Southern women.
"It's a fine piece of work, as good as I've done," she said. "We all got along great and made great friends. I like it when it's that way."
It's her first motion picture since "Rhinestone" in 1984 with Sylvester Stallone, a movie savaged by the critics.
"It (`Rhinestone') was a hit with me, but I didn't think it was a great movie," Parton recalled. "It got worse as it went along. It started out kind of slow and tapered off. Stallone had a lot of energy and was very funny, but the movie itself was not great."
With energy matched by ambition, she made two other movies: "9 to 5," with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," with Burt Reynolds.
"`9 to 5' was very cute and very good. It was a timely movie with women's lib going on. It was the best thing I've done.
"`Whorehouse' was a difficult movie to do," she said. "I would say it was average. It made a lot of money but didn't get good reviews. There was a lot of blood on the movie - ill feelings from the Broadway show and the original producers. But I loved Burt and all the people in it."
She and Rogers are seen every December in their sentimental made-for-TV special, "Kenny and Dolly - A Christmas to Remember."
"People can see the warmth and love and sincerity in our friendship," she said about the enduring popularity of the show. "It was family oriented with children and church and special little things in it.
"I'd like for us to do another one now that I've slimmed down a little (50 pounds worth). Every time I see myself in it, I say, `Look at the Christmas tree."'
Reviewing her singing career, Parton says "Islands in the Stream" remains special among the 47 single records she has released.
"It's the one song in my whole career that I never get tired of hearing or singing. If I hear it on the radio, I turn that song up, and I usually don't do that with my records.
"It's such a pleasant song, easy listening. It's not heavy and it's real positive. It was well written and has a great melody and chord progression. And I think Kenny and me sang great together. Our voices complimented each other."
A sequel to "Trio," she says, is probably not forthcoming.
"It took us 10 years to get that one done. As busy as we all are, it's not likely. We'd all love to see it happen, but the chances are slim. And speaking for myself, you don't want to mess with something good."
She says gimmicks have enhanced her image which has contributed to her success as one of the nation's best known personalities.
"The way I look, being so outrageous ... the fact I look phony and am real, has created a bit of a mystery and magic that works," she said.
"I try to have the gimmick, the big hair and loud clothes and high heels and long fingernails. All of this is born out of a serious place because the hair and heels give me height which I want. But it works somehow. I wouldn't want to look simple. I'd look like a blank wall."