Some country, but a lot of pop

Dolly Parton

"Backwoods Barbie"

(Dolly Records)

** 1/2

"Backwoods Barbie" is being touted as Parton's first full-fledged country record in ages, raising two questions: Which Parton, and which country?

Following a richly rewarding return to her bluegrass roots with a string of albums starting with 1999's Grammy-winning "The Grass Is Blue," what we get is more the pop-leaning Dolly of the late '70s and early '80s than the thoroughly homespun country bombshell who surfaced in the '60s as Porter Wagoner's protege and duet partner.

The album's lead single, "Better Get to Livin'," is preachier than typical for the usually down-to-earth country star, her stab at Oprah-like no-nonsense life advice to her legion of admirers. The title track delivers better on the wellspring of rural humility that's long been her greatest asset. Extending her penchant for left-field renditions of pop classics, she turns Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears" credibly country.

"Shinola" brims with her down-home sass, and "Cologne" transcends a potentially melodramatic lyric thanks to her intensely vulnerable vocal. The ratio of less-memorable tracks is higher than on those recent bluegrass outings, but there's enough of the Parton who is one of the greatest country writers and singers of the last half-decade to make it worth hearing.

-- Randy Lewis


He always has the gangsta life

Snoop Dogg

"Ego Trippin' " (Doggystyle/Geffen Records)

** 1/2

Snoop Dogg has spent the last 16 years strictly scribing songs about the three Gs: girls, greens and gangbanging. Throw in a cover song or two and the occasional pour-out-a-liquor tribute and you can pretty much map out the entirety of his lyrical DNA.

"Egotrippin'," his ninth record (in stores Tuesday), is a reflection of the limited musical options available to the man who essentially rewrote the template for West Coast gangster rap -- but you've got to give Snoop credit for trying to break new ground. Lead single "Sensual Seduction" (raunchily renamed "Sexual Eruption" for the LP) finds Snoop successfully using a Roger Troutman-like vocoder to concoct a tongue-in-cheek, throwback R&B; jam. Meanwhile funky Morris Day & the Time cover ("Cool") and weed-fried folk-country ode, "My Medicine" demonstrate the amiable, light-hearted side that Snoop often leaves behind when heading into the recording booth.

Yet not everything works; forays into the Southern sound ("Staxx in My Jeans" and "Ridin' in My Chevy") feel forced and cliched, and at a bloated 1 hour and 17 minutes, it's way long. Although "Ego Trippin' " is far from that elusive fourth "G" -- the great record that has eluded Snoop since "Doggy- style" -- it's still a fun go-round.

-- Jeff Weiss


At a loss to rhyme with Ross

Rick Ross

"Trilla" (Slip-n-Slide/Def Jam)

* 1/2

If the mark of a bad rap record is the ease with which you can deduce its lyrical content by track listing alone, "Trilla," the sophomore Def Jam effort from mafia-minded Miami MC Rick Ross, provides ample evidence to the theory.

Blessed with a nickname more fitting for a West Palm Beach dentist, the lug-headed Ross probably thinks "metaphor" is a new strain of ultra-expensive cocaine. This is not exaggeration. "Billionaire" spends four minutes-plus jack-hammering home the theme that Ross is a billionaire. "The Boss," Ross' T-Pain assisted single, revolves strictly around the idea that Ross is the "biggest boss that you've seen thus far." Apparently, "Ross" and "Boss" rhyme. Who knew?

Worse is the fact that Ross' debut, the tepid but successful "Port of Miami," also had a song called "Boss." Yet whereas his first record had million-dollar beats to paper over Ross' creative shortcomings, "Trilla's" feel like trite, second-rate imitations. Guest appearances from the likes of Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne and R. Kelly do little to levitate Ross' heavy-handed, hackneyed braggadocio. It's not until the final track, the similarly literally minded "I'm Only Human," that Ross proves he's actually three-dimensional and not just caricature.

-- J.W.


Albums are rated on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor). Albums reviewed have been released except as indicated.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Saturday, March 08, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction Dolly Parton: A review in Friday's Calendar section of Dolly Parton's new album, "Backwoods Barbie," identified her as "one of the greatest country writers and singers of the last half-decade." It should have read "one of the greatest country writers and singers of the last half-century."
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