Run, Rose, Run is a companion album that works surprisingly well on its own, imperfect but better than a James Patterson collab has any right to be.
When considering a “companion album,” most are likely to think of a compilation to some sort of visual media, something like the hit soundtracks released for The Hunger Games or Twilight films, a record where not all the tracks are necessarily incorporated, but inspired by the story and characters therein. We see this far more rarely with written media; a few authors, such as Jodi Picoult, have embarked on similar projects and included CDs and audio media with the paperback itself, but these projects haven’t tended to draw big names, and oftentimes feel like a demo reel rather than an actual album. That is not the case with Run, Rose, Run, a full album by Dolly Parton that compliments a book of the same name co-authored by her and James Patterson. And honestly, it’s a little surprising that Patterson hasn’t undertaken this kind of tie-in media before, seeing as he’s checked off nearly everything else in the publishing world. But perhaps that was for the best, as he’s here lucked out in collaborating with Dolly, who has created a work which can stand alone from the novel while also reflecting it nicely. (It’s worth noting that all songs on this record are written by Parton herself; she was a partner on the novel, but the assist was not returned, probably for the best.)
Run, Rose, Run is clearly the work of someone who’s been in the biz for a while. Parton, as always, brings an infectious energy to her songs. She hits the ground running with the uptempo opening track, aptly titled “Run” — it fast becomes the kind of singalong number that would make for the perfect opener at a show. Second track “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans” offers a great vehicle for Parton’s charisma; both are “always bustin’ at the seams,” which is the classic kind of winking you’d expect from her songwriting. Elsewhere, the record’s two best songs appear back-to-back, stacking with deeply different vibes. “Blue Bonnet Breeze” is a spooky little story about a Romeo-and-Juliet love story that ends in heartbreak and death, a cut that stands sturdy on its own. It’s immediately followed by “Woman Up (And Take It Like a Man),” which feels like an homage to girl-power country of the ‘90s as well as to Dolly’s own “9 to 5.” It admittedly falls a bit into the #girlboss category, but if anyone deserves a pass for that particular mode, it’s Miss Parton herself.
There are also some mediocre moments on the record, mostly a byproduct of overly repetitive lyrics; count the number of times you hear references to “Run,” “Demons,” or “Firecracker” — which are all also track titles — and it can drive you a little nuts. And then there’s “Snakes in the Grass,” which is too obvious in its central metaphor, although hearing Dolly and her gang whisper “watch your ass” at the very end is an unimpeachable album highlight. Likewise, some of the slower songs here, such as “Secrets,” drag; not even Dolly’s charm can make those three minutes interesting. But any way you shake it, album warts and all, Run, Rose, Run is a much better record than you’d expect from material inspired by a James Patterson book (which this will assuredly be better than), and speaks to Parton’s skill as a performer and songwriter. The album may not be a string of hits, but it’s certainly worth checking out for the littered highlights.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 2.