“She’s got her rituals.”
Ever since 1967 when she first appeared on Porter Wagoner’s country music show at the age of 21, Dolly Parton has been a constant on the country scene. Her first feature film was 1980’s popular Nine to Five and over the succeeding 20 years, she has numerous television and film appearances to her credit. Along the way, she’s received many country music awards including five Grammy awards and an Oscar nomination for writing the title tune for Nine to Five.
Her most recent film appearance was in Blue Valley Songbird and Image Entertainment has now made it available on DVD.
Singer Leanna Taylor and her back-up players are a popular attraction on the country music circuit. Managed by her longtime live-in boyfriend Hank, the group spends its time on the road, moving from bar to bar, but never seems able to break into the real big-time. Fifteen years previously, Leanna had stood up an important Nashville music promoter and had for a long time the reputation of being undependable. Her problem now, however, is Hank, who seems more interested in control over Leanna than in taking the necessary steps to jump to the big time. Complicating life further for Leanna are memories of her childhood with an abusive, controlling father — memories which have been reawakened by the news of her father’s death. A return to her childhood home and a reunion with her mother, along with a developing romantic interest in one of her guitarists, act as catalysts for bringing Leanna’s relationship with Hank to a head and resolving her future in the country music business.
Blue Valley Songbird was a made-for-TV enterprise in 1999 that has Dolly Parton’s hands all over it. She was executive producer, wrote the songs and also starred as the main character Leanna Taylor. Although all the other roles in the film are well acted and technically, the film is competently executed, Dolly is basically the whole show here. There are several original songs that are extremely pleasant to listen to including the title song; all were written by Dolly. The title song is not sung until near the film’s end and it neatly summarizes the basis of the film’s story — a tale that has a typical country hurtin’ theme to it. If you like country music and you like Dolly Parton, I think you’ll find the film to be an entertaining hour and a half’s diversion for a rainy day.
Belying the film’s modest nature, Image has done an excellent job on the DVD transfer which is presented full frame as originally filmed. The image is clean and sharp, and colour fidelity is very good. Edge enhancement is virtually non-existent. Two sound mixes are presented. The Dolby Digital 5.1 one is very engaging, doing a particularly effective job of delivering the songs. Directional effects are not an issue in this film, so the alternate Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is also pleasing, although not an enveloping as the 5.1 mix — as one would expect.
Other than the additional sound mix, there is no supplementary material on the disc. Now the film hardly merits much in the way of extras, but given that much poorer titles get the deluxe treatment these days, Dolly Parton fans couldn’t be faulted for wondering why they’ve been shut out here. At least, Image could have structured the 12 scene selections to coincide with the key songs. In most cases they haven’t, but in the one instance where they have, the title of the scene selection doesn’t provide a clue. I’m reminded of all of MGM/UA’s laserdiscs for musicals where all the songs were accorded separate chapter stops and so identified. It would have been so easy for Image to have done the same here and so shown real consideration for country music followers. Little things like that mean a lot.
Country music fans and particularly Dolly Parton devotees will find Blue Valley Songbird to be a pleasant concoction of songs within a typically country-music story framework of difficult childhood memories intertwined with the rocky road to adult success. Image has delivered a top-notch image transfer and a sound track that does justice to Dolly’s songs. Even so, I can’t imagine there being much of an interest in the title beyond a rental basis, however.