“Anyone skeptical of a music career that’s been gradually obscured by Parton’s exuberance on talk show couches needs to pay attention to this archetypal album” (Tyrangiel/ Light). At this stage in her career, “Dolly Parton had a number of hits…as Porter Wagoner’s duet partner, yet solo success eluded her until her 1971 album Coat of Many Colors. The title track was a Top Ten single, and it effectively became her signature song, largely because it was a sweetly autobiographical tune about her childhood” (Erlewine) and “a mother’s love conquering poverty…[as she] weaves a box of rags into a coat for her daughter” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
Parton “wrote seven of the ten songs (Wagoner wrote the other three), none of which is filler” (Erlewine). Specifically, the title track “along with…Traveling Man and My Blue Tears, were evidence that Parton was a strong songwriter” (Erlewine). The former is about “a girl and her mama chase the same no good guy (‘The traveling man was a good bit older/ But a girl needs arms to hold her’)” (Tyrangiel/ Light). Also on the album is “If I Lose My Mind, in which Parton’s boyfriend cheats right in front of her eyes” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“The full album reveals the true depth of her talents” (Erlewine); “it’s a remarkably consistent album, in terms of songwriting and performances, but also remarkably diverse, revealing that Dolly can handle ballads, country-rockers, tearjerkers, and country-pop with equal aplomb” (Erlewine). “Parton’s not above sentimentality, but it’s in constant battle with her feminist/realist leanings, and the whole package is tied together with a voice so crystaline it can’t help but crack a little when the going gets rough” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“While it is very short, clocking in at under a half-hour, there isn’t a wasted moment on the album. It’s a lean, trim album that impresses because of succinctness – with its ten songs, it announced Parton as a major talent in her own right” (Erlewine).