Newport Folk Festival has fostered a reputation over the years for surprising crowds with unannounced appearances by major artists. This year alone, James Taylor sat in with Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell backed up numerous artists, and The Tallest Man on Earth dropped in damn near everywhere. But Brandi Carlile was right when she said she was going to “bring you one the greatest surprises ever” as she welcomed Dolly Parton to the stage on Saturday night.
The Queen of Country was the cherry on the top of a highlight-filled performance dubbed “♀♀♀♀: The Collaboration”. Carlile had curated a set that featured her Highwomen collaborators (Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires), Crow, Yola, Jade Bird, Maggie Rogers, Linda Perry, Judy Collins, and others. Things went next-level for the finale, though, when Carlile, pulling at her own hair in disbelief, brought out Parton.
Gracious and funny as ever, Dolly Parton told stories of marriage, romance, and womanhood between each of her five songs. She first built off the Highwomen’s a cappella “Eagle When She Flies” to sing the whole song with the group before telling the tale of her first night of wedded bliss with “Just Because I’m a Woman”. Carlile was left alone with the icon to duet on “I Will Always Love You”, only to be rejoined by her bandmates for a barn-burning “Jolene”. To close the evening and what is now etched in legend as one of Newport Folk’s most memorable moments, all the Collaboration performers came out to jam on “9 to 5”.
For those that were there, the surprise performance was a lifetime musical zenith. For those who weren’t, get a taste of what it like by watching the videos below.
“Eagle When She Flies”:
“Just Because I’m a Woman”:
“I Will Always Love You”:
“9 to 5”:
Also check out backstage footage of the group rehearsing “Eagle When She Flies”:
Via @RealLindaPerry's Instagram
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) July 28, 2019