- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn — At 56, Dolly Parton is teaming up with an old friend: the road. The country music veteran has started a 13-city tour that began in New York and winds through the District, Nashville, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver and Chicago.

Miss Parton says she decided to begin her first tour in a decade because fans were clamoring for it.

"The people pretty much got me back on tour," Miss Parton says. "With the last two albums and the success we had, we just got hundreds of calls every week trying to book us.

"I wasn't really doing much, because I'm not getting any big offers for movies and I've got my business things all in order," says Miss Parton, whose theme park, Dollywood, sits at the foot of the Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee-North Carolina line.

"So I thought, 'Maybe I'll go out and see if they really do want to see me. I will be curious to see if the people like it. If they do, I'll probably continue with it."

The singer, who appears Monday night at a sold-out 9:30 Club, offers an acoustic rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" on her new album, "Halos & Horns," but so far has decided against including it on tour.

"I don't want to be hit with tomatoes and eggs," she says, joking, but with a tinge of seriousness. "We're not going to put it in the show right away. We thought we'd wait and see what the people think.

"I don't want it to be a joke. I don't want it to be like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"

Miss Parton has had a remarkable streak of hits, stretching back to duets with mentor Porter Wagoner in the 1960s. On her own, she has ranged from the very country "Jolene" to ballads including "I Will Always Love You" and pop hits such as "Here You Come Again."

However, radio programmers cooled on her new music in the 1990s. By 1999, Miss Parton concluded she might as well do as she pleased with her music. She released "The Grass Is Blue," and it won the Grammy for best bluegrass album in 2001.

Its success put Miss Parton on a creative roll. She followed with "Little Sparrow" last year and now "Halos & Horns."

Miss Parton's sound has evolved from bluegrass to acoustic country, the kind of music she sang growing up in rural Tennessee, which helps explain why she's interpreting such unlikely songs as "Stairway to Heaven" and Collective Soul's "Shine" for which she won a Grammy this year in that style.

"Now, I don't even think about the radio," she says.

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