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A Star-Studded Christmas!

By Shelly Ridenour |

Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, TN, goes all out for Christmas: colorful lights as far as the eye can see, performers singing old-fashioned tunes, a towering tree and the perfect Santa Claus. It's sweet, sentimental, a little corny but heartwarming. The same could be said for Dolly's latest holiday album, her third.

This time around, she mixes six originals into the dozen tracks, as well as some standards. She adds a spoken part to Holly Jolly Christmas— here, as warm as a cup of cocoa—to explain that it was this song that inspired her to make the album. A joyous I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus makes the most of Dolly's baby-doll voice, adding steel guitar to up the nostalgia factor. She stays jingle-bell faithful to the Mariah Carey classic All I Want for Christmas Is You, albeit slowing things down just a bit and bringing in a touch of fiddle, oh, and Jimmy Fallon, who fawns flirtatiously, telling Dolly he's always loved her and always will. For her part, Dolly sounds like she's having a ball when she hollers "Kiss me!" after Fallon sings "I just wanna keep on waiting/ Underneath the mistletoe."

Other duet partners include Billy Ray Cyrus on the easy-listening Christmas Where We Are and his daughter Miley (also Dolly's god-daughter), who holds back her wide-open blast of a voice to keep pace with Dolly's sweet whisper-sing on the ballad Christmas Is. Michael Bublé cruises in for the ring-a-ding Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas, his smooth voice pouring over Dolly's like maple syrup as they cutely trade verses. But perhaps most affecting is Pretty Paper—the swooning traditional made famous by Roy Orbison and written by Willie Nelson, who lends his sandpaper rasp here.

And if the nativity song Circle of Love sounds familiar, that's because it was first recorded by Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles for the TV movie Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, inspired by Dolly's childhood. Accompanied by gently sweeping strings and a soaring gospel choir, it showcases the singer's voice better than any other on the album.


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