Rank #1: Tennessee Mountain Trance
We journey into the Dollyverse dimension: "Tennessee Mountain Home."Like all law abiding Tennesseans, Jad grew up with the song on a loop. He hadn’t planned to talk with Dolly about it, but much to his surprise, he is drawn into a Tennessee Mountain Trance. The trance opens a portal to many questions about country music, authenticity, nostalgia and belonging. And to a place called Dollywood. We visit the replica of Dolly’s childhood cabin and find thousands of other pilgrims similarly entranced. Along the way, we meet Wandee Pryor, who lived in a Dolly dreamworld as a girl. And also, halfway around the world, Esther Konkara, the self-proclaimed “Kenyan Dolly Parton,” who sings "Tennessee Mountain Home" as an ode to the hills of Nairobi - hills she has not yet left. The Tennessee Mountain home begins to seem like part of a Disney fairytale.But then, Jad and Shima get a call from Dolly’s nephew and head of security Bryan Seaver, who makes an irresistible offer.
Oct 29 2019
Rank #2: Neon Moss
In this episode, we go back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home. But, can you ever go home again? Dolly tells us stories about her first trips out of the holler, and shares with us where she lives now. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration.
Nov 05 2019
Rank #3: Dollitics
Dolly Parton and politics have always had an interesting relationship. On the one hand, she wrote 9 to 5, the anthem for working women and the theme song for a movie inspired by a new labor union. On the other hand, she refuses to answer questions about President Trump, or any question on politics period. Her nephew calls this “Dollitics”: Dolly doesn’t take a position because she knows half her fans are on the right, half are on the left. In this moment in history, how should we think of this kind of fiercely apolitical stance? Is it desirable, or even possible?
Nov 12 2019
Rank #4: The Only One For Me, Jolene
One of Dolly’s most iconic and successful songs is “Jolene,” a song that, at first listen, is about a romantic rival trying to steal her man: a prime example of the classic “cheating song.” But some see it as flipping a popular country music trope on its head. This idea takes shape when Nadine Hubbs, a professor at the University of Michigan, writes a fourth verse to “Jolene," which makes us reimagine Dolly's songs in entirely new ways.
Nov 19 2019
Rank #5: Dolly Parton's America
At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, we drop in on a history class called “Dolly Parton’s America.” (We borrowed the name for our series!) Taught by Dr. Lynn Sacco, the class is filled with college students who grew up in rural Appalachia, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Dr Sacco gives the class an assignment: Write an essay that answers the question “What is Dolly Parton’s America?” Lurking just behind that question are thornier ones about Southern shame and identity and hillbillies and football and...well, Dolly. Is Dolly helping or hurting us? The class splits down the middle.
Dec 03 2019