When a CD comes out that's composed of artists performing versions of a music legend's songs, usually the question is "Who's on it?" But a better question is "What's on it?" The choice of material should be even more important than the selection of artists. Most of the songs on Just Because I'm a Woman seem to have been picked with care, rather than simply for familiarity. There's not much crossover schlock from Parton's movie-star heyday.
Woman has only two songs with broad recognition. The godawful "9 to 5" is no better in the hands of bluegrass-honey Alison Krauss. "I Will Always Love You," so thoroughly butchered by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard 10 years ago, gets the treatment it deserves from Melissa Etheridge. The rest of the CD has a few of Dolly's pre-Hollywood hits and some lesser-known songs from the past quarter-century. Highlights are Joan Osborne's soulful "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind," Kasey Chambers' down-home "Little Sparrow," Sinéad O'Connor's power-packed "Dagger Through the Heart," and Me'Shell N'DegeOcello's jazz-pop reworking of "Two Doors Down." And to attract the hardcore faithful, Dolly covers herself with an R&B version of the 35-year-old title tune.