Twangy Wedding Night Music


I’m not really a country music fan, per se. I love most all live music and there is some country I like, (I even have some in my iTunes library) but as a rule, I’m straight up tuned into Sirius XM Coffee House. So it’s safe to say—until now— the only time the name Dolly Parton has come up around these parts is when someone—a surfer like my husband—refers to the surf spot near the San Onofre Power Plant as “The Dolly Parton Memorial.” (And yes, we know and are grateful Dolly’s not dead.)


So the fact that I chose Dolly Parton’s duet with Kenny Rogers “Islands in the Stream” as the soundtrack piped out from our CD-playing-boom-box in our Hyatt Regency SF honeymoon suite over thirty-five years ago is interesting, given I wasn’t-what-you’d-call-a-country-music-fan then or now. But “Islands in the Stream” had crossed over and was played on my LA based KISS FM station way back when and I loved that song, so I wanted it for that special night. It may be a touch too intimate a detail to reveal here, but what the heck, I think even John doesn’t remember that detail from that night, so it’s fine. So now we all know.


All that said, Dolly Parton’s name keeps poppin’ up lately. I just got back from my first trip to Nashville. Let’s do a sidebar about twang, shall we? Then we’ll git back to Miss Dolly.


Me and accents? In one ear, out the mouth. That’s what happens when I travel to places where the locals speak with a distinctive accent. It’s honestly not on purpose. I don’t mean to be offensive, and I’m not mocking them. It’s natural, 100% organic (or “or-gain-ic” as my Texan sister, Barbara, will say). When John speaks to locals, he will speak loudly and enunciate, as if the listener is hard-of-hearing. And he always does so with a Spanish accent, no matter where we are in the world. So our collective offensiveness probs balances everything out. So we’re good.


Since my recent trip down yonder to Nashville, I caint git rid of that dern twang. Last night via voice message, my friend Tiffany, who’s from Nashville by way of South Carolina, told me that my twang is LEGIT. Her word. And she said it how you might imagine.


Tiffany is a legit Nashville singer and she and her husband, Lee treated me (and another friend, Jeni) to an impromptu live couch performance in their front room. It was magic. She spoke of her inspiration, Dolly Parton. She said Dolly is the be-all-end-all, the queen, the zenith, so to speak. Tiffany also included anecdotal tidbits about Porter Wagoner. (More on Porter, later.)


Tiffany busted out one of her Dolly albums and played it on the old school record player (circa 60’s/70’s Zenith model, including tubes and old speakers) that she and Lee own. She described the reason she loves hearing Dolly’s voice on the player and the difference between the sound of digital music and the analog record player, where the music on the record is recorded reel-to-reel. She said, to her, digital has a flat, more compressed sound while the record player sound is warm. It’s like velvet, she said. She feels enveloped by the sound. Hugged.


I knew exactly what she was talking about. I can still hear the rich sound of my parents’ phonograph playing Loretta Lynn singing “How Great Thou Art.” Even then, I-wasn’t-what-you’d-call-a-country-music-fan but I loved the sound of her music. And even as a child, I loved what Loretta was singing about—that there was and is something greater. I always hoped and wondered about that.


So Nashville was last week. This week I got a text from my cousin Amy who lives outside Detroit aka Motown.  Of all the music links Amy has sent me, she’s never passed on any country. But last week, coincidentally, she sent me a link to the “Dolly Parton’s America” podcast.

Seems Amy’s a fan of Dolly. Huh. So I gave it a listen.  (I just thought/wrote that with a distinctive Nashville twang—again, not on purpose.)


I haven’t listened through all the episodes yet, but let me tell you, so far, Dolly’s insights are fine precision. Like a brilliant surgeon with a scalpel.


Dolly gets right to heart, right quick. No fat, no BS.


I was soaking in my hot tub in our backyard with bubbles swirling all around, listening to episode #2, when Dolly was speaking about her sometimes tumultuous relationship with Porter Wagoner and was doing so with seemingly effortless honesty and respect, her benefit-of-the-doubtgiving way.


Oh, to be gifted with that way.


The interviewer asked her how she was able to “do this one thing” that seemed almost superhuman (you’ll have to listen to the episode)…when Dolly said matter-of-factly, “Forgiveness is all there is.”


Forgiveness is all there is.


It was as if she had just told the secret to life.


As though the very words embodied everything. Everything there is to know. And do.


I could almost hear angels sing those words and then break into a chorus of “How Great Thou Art.”


This is something greater.


It was that gut-punching, redemptive, reconciling, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when I bawl for the eighty-zillionth time.


Think of every spot-on metaphor, every climactic scene in every life-affirming movie you’ve even seen, and it was that.


In a hot tub, I got a word from God. And If I didn’t get a word, I definitely got schooled. I got schooled, but with a warm, loving, too-legit-to-quit, I love you anyway, hug.


It pains me to say—forgiveness isn’t easy for me. And yet, as a Christian, I know that when I am in the act of forgiving, I am most like Christ. When I do that math, it makes me sad.


I sat in those bubbles swirling around me, the hot water enveloping me, and I knew in that instant, almost all the trouble I have in my life is a result of my struggle with forgiveness, holding on when I ought to let go.


And for a moment, it felt like everything I needed to let go of was now gone.


Dolly’s name is poppin’ up…and over the years, she’s circling back. She’s got a message.


Her simple, velvety words resound with a thick richness. In her sweet, guileless twang, she speaks of something greater, reel to reel=real. The word zenith comes to mind.


I think I might be what you’d call a country music fan. Maybe I’ll hang on to this twang.