High cheese factor no obstacle for Dolly’s smarts
From the choice of title song to covers of old warhorses like “Both Sides Now” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” Those Were the Days is a size-DDD exercise in Caro-thick nostalgia, and Dolly wants you to know from the start that she knows it, too. She’s always two steps ahead of appearances, grabbing attention by any means necessary, then holding it by throwing herself farther into a performance than most artists are capable. Generally, this formula works on Days, which is a slight departure from the high-lonesome roots that’ve served her well on recent outings. Dolly sells every tune like she learned it yesterday, but even she has a hard time overcoming the sentimental baggage of tracks like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Imagine.” Each song’s effectiveness increases in proportion to its bluegrass content, which seems to relax Dolly and bring out the subtler, more believable inflections in her considerable vocal arsenal. Days is a solid yet occasionally problematic effort.