The first things you notice about Dolly Parton — besides her more obvious attributes — are the length of her scarlett finger nails. They’re scary, almost Wolverine-like weapons.

They’re so long, as a matter of fact, that she can strum them together and use them as percussion instruments. On her new DVD/CD, Live From London, Parton says she did exactly that to make the typewriter sounds on her hit song 9 to 5.

Parton even offers a demonstration. Ratatatat, ratatatata.

The DVD, released today in Canada on the Sonic Unyon Records label, is mostly concert footage culled from two sold-out nights at London’s 02 arena during her European tour last year. But it also offers some revealing behind the scenes interviews with Parton, including the time where she shows off her tap-dancing finger nails.

“You have to have acrylic nails, falsies I say,” Parton laughs in a phone interview from her Nashville office. “And I’m really the queen of falsies ... when I was little I was always doing it, playing my nails like that, making that sound. But it’s the acrylic coated nails that gives it that sound. It makes a real good rhythmic sound, don’t it?”

Yet you’ve got to wonder how she can possibly play guitar with those claws?

“I don’t have to (use a guitar pick) with these nails,” she says. “They’re hard as nails, so actually it works out pretty good.”

A set of nails usually lasts her through an entire tour. Sometimes accidents do happen, however, so Parton comes prepared.

“I keep crazy glue on the set. You know, the superglue? I always keep it with my water and my kleenex. I always keep kleenex, a bottle of water and a tube of crazy glue, because I may have to glue back on a nail.”

Parton is 63, but the DVD shows her still in prime shape. She hasn’t lost any of the energy that has made her one of country music’s biggest stars.

“I have to watch my weight because I’m so little and I have such a big appetite,” Parton admits. “I have been much heavier in my life. But when we were on that tour we had the greatest chef that travelled around with us to all the places that we went. Man, it was really hard. So I had to stay on a low carb diet so I could eat more, lots of chicken, meat, fish, cheeses, eggs and stuff. That way I try to maintain it.”

And does Parton work out in a gym?

“No, I’m not one of those people,” she says. “I’m particular about who I sweat with.”

The Book Lady

Book Lady, a half-hour documentary about country music legend and pop-culture icon Dolly Parton’s campaign for children’s literacy, will have its first Canadian broadcast on Sunday, Nov. 22, on the CBC program Canadian Reflections.

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