Miley Cyrus and Shawn Mendes open the show with “Islands in the Stream”, and though they make a cute pair, the performance is rather bland, which is odd considering Dolly’s goddaughter is normally a firecracker performer. Mendes does his best, but the duo seem to be singing more at Dolly than for her. B-
The host of the special, Little Big Town, comes on stage and banters about Dolly, and each claims they are the bigger Dolly fan. I wonder why didn’t sing in the special. Certainly a missed opportunity.
Willie Nelson and Brandi Carlie next hit the stage to perform “Everything’s Beautiful (In it’s Own Way), originally performed by Willie and Dolly. During the song poor Willie seems out of breath trying to keep pace with Brandi, but he still has star quality. A nice take on this song, but nothing overly special. B
Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves are up next to perform “Here you Come Again” with Perry jumping about in her purple cowgirl costume practically leaving Musgraves, looking very Cher-like in appearance, as an afterthought. Perry’s mugging almost ruins the duet, as apparently she thought Musgraves was her background singer. Had Perry toned it down just a bit this would have been better. B
The first performance on the rotating stage, sitiatited in the middle of the crowd, is Norah Jones and her group Puss n Boots. The other ladies in the group are Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper. They do an amazing version of Dolly’s “The Grass is Blue”, with Norah on piano. This is a beautiful and low key performance that left me wanting more. A
Performing Dolly’s smash hit “9 to 5” , was Chris Stapelton of all artists. I certainly would have never thought of him as an obvious choice to perform this number, but the song works very well as a rock/country romp with twangy spark. A fun performance. A
Up next are gospel legend Mavis Staples and soul singer Leon Bridges to perform “Not Enough”, and backed with an energetic choir apparently hyped on caffeine, take us to church. Speaking of the choir, at times they overpower the lead performers, and Bridges’ vocals are a bit too weak when compared to Staples. Nevertheless, this is an uplifting showstopper. A
The trio of Jennifer Nettles, Margo Price and Cam (forgive me but I haven’t heard of any of them) are next in line to perform “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.” The ladies do a superb job, and their voices blend very well. A low key winner. A
The most eclectic performance of the show comes from Lauren Daigle who takes on Dolly’s song “The Seeker”. Daigle’s version would have been at home on the stage at the Woodstock Festival, and she is even dressed as though she was there. This performance made me want to seek out more work from this artist. A
After we recover from Yolanda, Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt come on stage to reveal how they first met Dolly with a few jokes and memories. They introduce the honoree, and as always the other performers are outshone by Dolly’s star power. She talks and jokes a bit, you know, Dolly being Dolly, and then performs “Coat of Many Colors” with Linda Perry on guitar. Dolly shows the others how you survive in show business. Now streaming on Netflix.