Dolly Parton’s America and other episodes chronicling country music, rodeo, native culture, and more.
We'll let WNYC Studios host Jad Abumrad speak for himself on the subject of Dolly Parton and why he’s decided to explore her ever-growing influence in a nine-part podcast:
“Here is somebody who, in terms of cultural impact, is second maybe only to Walt Disney,” the Tennessee-raised Abumrad explains in his notes previewing the new audio show. “She’s been in the public eye for a half-century, intersected with every major social, cultural, and political trend in that time. What can she tell us about America?”
Having spoken at length with Dolly for the production, Abumrad finds unexpected ways to weave his conversations together with outside perspectives on the artist and her work.
With Dolly Parton’s America (available now for free on iTunes and other major platforms), he achieves something not often found in shorter, soundbite-heavy Dolly interviews: He captures her one-on-one conversational style, without the unspoken pressure to deliver crowd-pleasing zingers (although she’s one of the best at that). For any longtime fan of the artist, it’s utterly fascinating to hear her real-time reactions and insights into the sounds of her earliest recordings and interviews. It’s as close as many of us will ever get to hanging out with the legend, seeing her as anything but a mythical superhero. Even if the comfort level is surprising, her artistic brilliance is still deeply felt (and somewhat intimidating to think about) throughout the series.
Between candid conversation segments, her power is cemented with every Dolly-related rabbit hole the podcast goes down. The show is called Dolly Parton’s America, after all, so we hear from everyday folks with personal Dolly stories — people who’ve been soothed, moved, and brought to epiphanies by her songs and her spirit. And then there are deep dives into the historical and cultural stories that have surrounded and played a part in Dolly’s journey.
Abumrad’s production is evidence of how a narrative podcast can pull you into its orbit and into the rhythms of its subject. A few hours in, you feel enriched.
If you haven’t donned the headphones and logged into iTunes before, there’s no better place to start than a podcast about Dolly Parton.
Toasted Sister Podcast: Host Andi Murphy (Navajo) goes deep into indigenous food traditions and trends with lively, fun interviews.
Native Trailblazers: Journalist Vincent Schilling (Mohawk) and his wife, Delores, discuss Native topics and interview influential people from all walks of life.
Native America Calling: Stay informed with a mix of tribal news, lifestyle tips, and interviews. Producers dub it “your national electronic talking circle.”
Tales From the Trail: We’re partial to this one: C&I helped singer Tyller Gummersall launch the show, which features songwriters and road warriors of the West.
Cowboy Crossroads: This exquisitely produced show features poet and performer Andy Hedges’ conversations with fellow Western creatives.
Blazing Trails: “Cowboys, hunters, and everyday people” talk to rodeo rider Devan Reilly about what the West has taught them.
Modern Cowboy: Host Dan Hillenbrand invites high-profile guests who evoke the cowboy’s spirit in their work, everywhere from rodeo to ranches and art galleries to stages.
The Modern West: Wyoming Public Media produces a short but thoughtful show that deals with the stories and issues in the American West today.
The Bobby Bones Show: The best-known and most provocative country-radio DJ in Nashville checks in every weekday with revealing interviews and more.
NFR Extra: The energy and buzz of National Finals Rodeo is channeled into this weekly show packed with athlete and entertainer interviews.
More from our entertainment feature
Photography: Image courtesy of Shore Fire Media
From our January 2020 issue.