There’s the story that Ashley McBryde tells about how she does not want to come face to face with Dolly Parton. The story has to do with watching one of Parton’s properties with Dolly’s niece a few years back and almost setting her house on fire after an incident with Parton’s microwave.
As a journalist who has loved Dolly Parton since I was just a tween, I was always puzzled why Ashley would not want to be in Parton’s presence. So, when I interviewed McBryde last week for her The Devil I Know album, I just had to ask her about it.
According to McBryde, it’s not that she doesn’t love Dolly; she may love the music icon too much. Ashley told me, “There are two women of country music that I walk the opposite direction if they walk my way because I don’t want to say anything stupid, and it’s Dolly and Emmylou Harris.”
She continued, “I haven’t gotten to see Dolly since I went to a show that same year that we caught the microwave on fire. She is such a lighthouse and such true North that I think having a conversation with her, I might do something to screw it up. There are some icons that I think are just too big for my little body to be able to handle being that excited.”
Not only is McBryde a massive fan of Parton, she actually based what she does on stage on Dolly’s 1994 live album, Heartsongs. Ashley told me, “As far as my stage banter, I just listened to the Dolly record live from the Smoky Mountains, Heartsongs. I took most of my notes from the bluegrass world and Dolly’s banter style cause she just says whatever comes across her mind.”
Ashley knows Parton’s music pretty well, and she holds Heartsongs in high esteem. She said, “That’s my favorite record, and then there are other records of hers like Little Sparrow and Halos and Horns, My Grass Is Blue that I really loved those records. As a matter of fact, probably Little Sparrow in some way responsible for my song ‘Sparrow’ somewhere down the line.”
McBryde’s favorite Dolly Parton was never a hit. She offered, “‘These Old Bones’ that Dolly wrote and the character that she based it on and the way she committed to it, I absolutely adore that song. So I know that I should say ‘9 to 5’ or ‘Jolene’ or ‘Hard Candy Christmas’ when people say what’s you favorite Dolly Parton song. (She whispers) It’s ‘These Old Bones.'” And yes, that is Dolly singing all parts of the song!
It’s that same 1994 Parton album that helped to mold Ashley’s upcoming headline tour. She revealed. “So on the Heartsongs record, it starts with the song ‘Heartsongs’ and then they reprise it at the end; I took a note from that for the ‘Devil I Know Tour.'”