Podcast Review: Dolly Parton’s America

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Tess Roundy

Robert Krulwich was the cohost of Radiolab until he retired earlier this year. In his final episode he and cohost Jad Abumrad discuss something called “The Bobbys”. Robert explains that in the early 70’s he created an award similar to The Oscars and named it after himself. The rules were that he could reward anything he found and loved regardless of its release date. This means that Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz could be up against Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

The Roundys

I thought this was an incredible idea. So instead of bothering my friends about my new love of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild in 2020 I’m starting The Roundys. Here, I’ll bother K-UTE blog readers about things I love and think everyone should love (or at least like). Expect podcasts, music, reality television, video games, clothes, books or whatever I feel like. As for credentials all I have is the thousands of hours I’ve logged listening to podcasts and my self proclaimed great taste. Shall we begin?

I was inspired by Radiolab’s own Robert Krulwich, so naturally the first Roundy is Radiolab adjacent. Created and hosted by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad, this mini podcast series is a phenomenal piece of journalism that explores the life and influence of a woman everyone adores. The first Roundy goes to Dolly Parton’s America

Enter the Dollyverse

In this nine episode podcast series, Jad explores the “Dollyverse” by interviewing the icon herself. She discusses growing up with her 11 siblings in the rural Tennessee Mountains and writing “sad ass songs.” Dolly shares the story about a contentious relationship she had with Porter Wagoner, the man who helped launch her to success but who, after years of working together, hurt Dolly. By the end this story, it’s ultimately about love and forgiveness but their messy relationship resulted in the song Light of a Clear Blue Morning, whose lyrics, are telling of their abusive relationship.

Perhaps my favorite part in this series is in the final episode when she tells the story about how she found God as a 12 year old in an abandoned church. Growing up she’d frequent this church to bang on the old piano and sing. Inside, the walls were graffitied with “dirty pictures.” Dolly says she’d study how the sexual organs had been drawn and add to them herself. This is where Dolly Parton says she found God and the place she goes in her mind to feel peace or comfort.

I love this part because it describes Dolly Parton’s essence perfectly. Before hearing this, her voice in the podcast, her music, and her image were things I couldn’t contrive into one person. This story of the old abandoned church where she’d sing and play the piano and admire spray painted boobs made sense to me. 

Final Thoughts

Jad Abumrad has been working in radio for nearly 20 years; he knows how to produce works of radio art. His talent shows in Dolly Parton’s America. The storytelling, editing, mixing, and music are remarkable throughout. The fact he recorded Dolly Parton telling her story is reason enough to binge all nine episodes. If you enjoy Dolly Parton, incredible journalism, and/or podcasts you’ll fall in love with Dolly Parton’s America. So much that you may feel inclined to create an award just to publicly reward this podcast.