Jolene (1974) was Dolly Parton’s declaration of independence, her first album after ending her partnership with Porter Wagoner. Any concerns that she could make it on her own were dispelled by this nearly-flawless work. Its title track became an instant classic, thanks to its plaintive lyric and Appalachian-accented melody. “I Will Always Love You” was even better, an exquisite country/pop aria with a heart-rending chorus. (Anyone only familiar with Whitney Houston’s bombastic rendition of this song should hear the understated anguish of the original.) While these two masterpieces are the peaks on Jolene, there are no low points here. “River Of Happiness” and “Early Morning Breeze” are honeysuckle-sweet tunes that manage to avoid being cloying. “When Somebody Wants To Leave” taps into Parton’s mountain roots, while “Living On Memories Of You” nurses a case of honky-tonk blues. Her restrained vibrato, silvery high notes and emerging acting ability make her performances entrancing. Dolly’s career ascended to the stratosphere after Jolene — but she arguably never made a better record.