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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Dolly Parton's America: Like its namesake, there's depth beneath the flashy surface

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America's great icons. Join us for a 9-episode journey into the Dollyverse.

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:

Sad Ass Songs


Narrative storytelling/interviews with Dolly (a lot of them)


Jad Abumrad of Radiolab and More Perfect

Sound/production quality:


Rating/age suitability:

Appropriate for all ages but definitely holds the most appeal for Dolly fans

Approximate length of episodes:

40 minutes

Curricular ties:

Probably none, unless you can fit it into a music curriculum--or if you teach this course at University of Tennessee

Similar recommended pods:

My Year with Dolly

Podcast Librarian’s Review: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ DPA is one of the most buzzed-about podcasts of the year, and it lives up to the hype. I’ve been a casual fan of Dolly Parton over the years but really had no clue about her backstory and wide appeal. Through interviews with Dolly herself, Jad Abumrad (who has a fascinating connection to Dolly, revealed in a later episode) reverently reveals the struggles and triumphs of Dolly’s life. Dolly herself is utterly delightful, often answering Jad’s questions with stories (she’s a great storyteller), which are sometimes unrelated to the question but always fascinating and entertaining. Dolly often bursts into one of her songs, and her voice is still gorgeous a cappella after all these years. One of the most interesting revelations is that Dolly avoids talking about politics because she knows her fan base is so evenly split, and she doesn’t want to alienate anyone—even though she’s sometimes criticized for it. This podcast is just delightful and wonderful in every way. Sure, anyone could have told the story of Dolly’s life, but the combination of Jad’s connection to her, Dolly’s accessibility and openness, and the way the show explores social and political issues through the lens of Dolly makes it truly special and excellent.

As a bonus, pair this podcast with the “I Will Always Love You” episode of another favorite podcast, Strong Songs. Some of the historical material is the same as DPA, but in Strong Songs, host Kirk Hamilton also explores the different iterations of the song, including Whitney Houston’s iconic version, and discusses what works about each version from a musical theory and music appreciation perspective.

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