To coincide with Dolly's European tour of 2007, there were several CD releases including yet another best of compilation and three twofers (of which this is one) featuring six albums, five of which had never been released on CD while the other had only briefly been available in the early days of CD. Three of Dolly's older albums were also released with bonus tracks (of which this is one) although only the bonus tracks were new to CD, the main albums having already been made available on earlier releases.
Unlike the other two albums re-mastered with bonus tracks (Jolene, Coat of many colors), which contain previously un-released tracks, the only bonus track on this CD is Sacred memories, which isn't even new to CD. Sacred memories, which was actually recorded at the same sessions as the other tracks here, is a great song that first appeared on the album Love is like a butterfly. Along with some other tracks from that album, it made its CD debut on a compilation, Mission chapel memories. My first reaction on seeing the lack of bonus tracks was one of disappointment, since the other two re-mastered albums each have four bonus tracks. Maybe the intention was to stick to the basic theme of the album, or maybe they restricted the album to tracks recorded at the relevant sessions, but I still think that they could have included three tracks from Bubbling over, Dolly's follow-up album to this one, to make up the four.
The songs here mostly take a rose-tinted view of Dolly's early life. Only the revival of an early Dolly classic, In the good old days, serves to remind us of the hardship that Dolly and her family endured. Dolly says in her autobiography that all the neighbors led the same kind of life, so she didn't consider herself poor. Communication with the outside world hardly existed in Dolly's childhood, in a remote location that outsiders never visited, without TV and with a radio that didn't always work properly. In these circumstances, perhaps it's easy for Dolly to sing about the good aspects of her childhood and teenaged years, although she reminds us that she wouldn't want to re-live those days, in the chorus of In the good old days.
For the rest of the album including Sacred memories, the title track really sets the scene and typifies the mood although it doesn't actually open the album. It appears halfway through because it was the opening track of the second side on the original vinyl release. The opening track here is actually Dolly's narration of her first letter home after her arrival in Nashville. The only other track about the start of her musical career is the one that closed the original vinyl album, Down on Music Row, in which a few facts are conveniently overlooked. I guess it wouldn't have pleased RCA if Dolly had mentioned that Fred Foster on Monument that gave Dolly her first real break. Still, it's only a song and it sounds great despite not being lyrically accurate.
I love the songs about Dolly's childhood although, reading the liner notes to the compilation, Mission chapel memories, it's clear that is not a universal opinion. Nevertheless, even the writer of those notes acknowledges that this is a highly regarded album, although he continues in the same sentence to suggest that the album nearly destroyed Dolly's credibility. Talk about contradicting yourself. Despite the strange comments and the inevitable omission of any tracks from this album, it's a great compilation.
For those who like to hear about the good times in Dolly's childhood, this is a great album. Dolly pays tribute to her parents (I remember), her father again (Daddy's working boots), her doctor (Dr Robert F Thomas) and more generally remembers her early life in such songs as Old black kettle, Wrong direction home, Back home and Better part of life. This remains my favorite Dolly Parton album.