Podcast Review: Dolly Parton's America

Style: Documentary

Average Episode Length: 40 min

Dolly Parton’s America is a nine episode series that attempts to answer the question of “just what is Dolly Parton’s America?” The podcast is hosted by Jad Abumrad of Radiolab and is, like many a podcast out there, a deep dive into the world of Dolly Parton and why she is the way she is and just what is it about that Tennessee mountain home that’s so special. Although I’m not super into county music, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate Dolly Parton as a trailblazing, feminist icon.

In a May 2020 Time100 Talks: Finding Hope conversation, Parton said “I suppose I am a feminist if I believe that women should be able to do anything they want to…I just really feel I can live my femininity and actually show that you can be a woman and you can still do whatever you want to do.” Not only does the podcast dive into the somewhat controversial topic of Dolly as a feminist icon (she doesn’t even consider herself a feminist), but it explores Tennessee, Southern accents, the Civil War, and the context behind one of her most famous songs “Jolene”.

What really makes this podcast unique is the pairing of the podcasts host, Jad with Dolly’s storytelling. Jad grew up in Tennessee the son of Lebanese immigrants and said that growing up Dolly Parton was everywhere and consequently he didn’t think much about her even though his class trips in school were always to Dollywood. He says that back then the visitors were mostly as white as the surrounding areas, but returning to it as an adult he discovered that she had a wide and diverse fanbase who traveled far and wide to discover a part of the magic for themselves. You'll want to listen to the podcast to get the scoop on why Jad decided to embark on this documentary podcast journey with Dolly. They share an interesting connection.

Dolly is a brilliant songwriter and storyteller. Heck, I don't even like country music that much, but I sure do love a good Dolly Parton song. One of my favorite songs of Dolly’s is a recent remix of 9 to 5, aptly named 5 to 9. Dolly flips the switch on the office grind narrative and celebrates entrepreneurship and hustling after your dreams. Definitely something I can connect with after starting podprinted last year. Interviews with fans, fellow musicians, family members, co-stars and "Dolly-ologists" - including one who teaches the university class that lent the podcast its name - reframe Parton as an under-appreciated song-writer, the last "great unifier" in a fragmented America, and a genuinely good person to boot (I mean, she helped fund the Moderna vaccine for goodness sake!). This podcast was selected as a Forbes 2019 podcast of the year and appears in several other podcast recommendation lists so I suggest you check this one out. You’ll laugh, cry, and definitely learn something new about America’s sweetheart.

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