Dolly Parton’s ode “Jolene” has become an industry unto itself, spawning so many cover versions it’s impossible to keep track. The song is a fun one for singers to arrange. The subject matter is fairly simple – please don’t take my man – but in Parton’s hands, it’s a plaintive and sinister rebuke. “Jolene” is a popular cover song, even more than 40 years after its release in 1973, so take a look at these cover versions.
In case you missed the memo, Parton is Miley’s godmother and the former Hannah Montana star happens to be a talented singer. If there’s one turning point in Miley’s journey from laughable child star to grudging musical respect, it probably dates to the time when Miley started incorporating “Jolene” into her repertoire.
The White Stripes
If you thought Miley played the song a lot, or that Jack White was just a Johnny-come-lately to Nashville, check the set lists from the White Stripes’ heyday. “Jolene” was a staple of their live show, usually with White making the song into a screaming rocker. White ably plays the part of crazed and jilted lover on this cover…. But one who is pleading with Jolene not to steal his friend.
Norah Jones takes a (predictably) understated approach to “Jolene,” which works well to counterbalance the over-the-top interpretation of most musicians. Jones doubles down on the jealousy from another angle – emphasizing the lyrics which reveal the singer as a woman who could “never love again.”
Well, Andy Rehfeldt’s death metal version of “Jolene” is more of an experience than a song. He brings the thrash courtesy of guest vocalist Sera Hatchett (Mercy Brown). Hatchett sings her head off (seriously, we were afraid her head was going to pop off), and if you like that sort of thing, this is the cover for you.
Straight No Chaser (featuring Dolly)
Dolly has as much fun with the different versions of the song as the artists who cover it. She had a great time recording with the a capella ban Straight No Chaser, making music strictly with their mouths and hands, no instruments required.
It’s a producer’s world, so it’s only fitting that we feature one of the great experiments in music. KMT did a mix that has Dolly dueling with Jay-Z’s “City Is Mine.” The result is pure gold.
Kelly Clarkson is more than capable of giving great cover of “Jolene” because of her unbeatable range and power. In 2015, she covered the song by accident, when a smart fan requested the song during an Albuquerque tour stop. She obliged and the result was thrilling.
“Slow Ass Jolene”
No matter how many others interpret the song, we keep returning to Dolly’s original recording. A slowed down version of the song was uploaded to YouTube back in 2012, sweeping the internet and achieving well over two million views. It lowers Dolly’s voice and slows the pace to a crawl, making it an ethereal and yet shattering wonder.