Australia’s so in the grip of Dolly fever at the moment that to speak a word against the country icon seems potentially treasonous. What if word gets back to Dollywood and she decides to cancel her first Australian tour in almost 30 years?

It’s with much trepidation, then, that we report Dolly’s latest record, Better Day, is something of a disappointment after 2008’s outstanding Backwoods Barbie.

It’s not exactly bad — hell, Dolly could never be bad. And there are definite highlights: bluesy opener In The Meantime continues the ‘pull yourself together’ theme of Backwoods Barbie’s high point, Better Get To Livin’. And lead single Together You and I is the sort of saccharine sugar rush that only Dolly can get away with, thanks to a chorus encouraging us to “paint a pretty rainbow brushed with love across the sky”.

But with only five of the album’s 12 songs (all Parton originals, eschewing her weakness for unusual cover versions) being strictly new material, it’s a record that feels somewhat cobbled together: four songs here come from the recent Broadway musical 9 to 5, while a further two are updated versions of songs she and other artists had already recorded.

Now for the good news: early reports show that Parton’s Better Day World Tour — which kicked off in July and reaches us in November — is a mammoth 33-song set with only five tracks plucked from Better Day.

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