Dolly Parton’s America

I was reminded at a party this weekend that I promised to write about more than just music. I am apparently doing less well at that than I was hoping. I even have photos for multiple posts that I took months ago and then never wrote them. I will get to them eventually. For now, I’m going to sort of write about something that’s not about music in that it’s about a podcast that is related somewhat to music. Baby steps people.

I have been meaning to write about the Dolly Parton’s America podcast for awhile now and just haven’t done it. I figured I needed to get my act in gear though because spoiler alert it’s going to show up in my annual most memorable pop culture post. I didn’t want to write about there without first having dedicated a post to it. I was sort of hoping to wait and write about it after the final episode, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to drop before I would have wanted to have this post written.

Dolly Parton’s America as you’ve obviously gathered by now is a podcast. It’s produced by WNYC Studios and hosted by Jad Abumrad, who is also the host of RadioLab. He was able to conduct some extensive interviews with Dolly thanks to a connection he had through is father, who was once Dolly Parton’s doctor. In total it’s going to be nine episodes long. At the time of this writing 7 of them have aired, plus one bonus episode on music inspired by the podcast.

If you’re a Dolly fan it’s not a podcast in which you’re likely to find out anything you didn’t already know about Dolly. Jad Abumarad uses his interviews with Dolly Parton as a jumping off point to take a more sociological view of some bigger issues as well as Dolly and her career. For instance he examines how Dolly manages to appeal to a large cross section of Americans who you usually don’t see in the same spaces, especially in our currently divided country. He looks at things like what does it mean to be a feminist when many of your actions are seen as feminist but you refuse to call yourself one as Dolly does? Is it okay to not take a larger stand on things you personally believe in and does that calculus change if it’s due to personal beliefs or a business decision? Is Dolly Parton lifting up the poor Appalachian area she came from or exploiting it? Those are just some of the questions addressed in the podcast. As someone who loves Dolly and is a sociologist at heart it’s right up my alley. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if you don’t care for Dolly Parton’s music I still think it’s well worth a listen.

New Music Friday: Hallelujah by HAIM

I’ve had this song open in a tab on my computer for a couple of weeks waiting to use it in a New Music Friday post. I didn’t wind up writing a post last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday mostly just because I was being lazy and not because I had anything going on last Friday. I’m pretty sure I spent the day watching 3 Lifetime/Hallmark Christmas movies.

Anyway, back to the lovely sisters of HAIM who have some beautiful harmonies in this song. I love how the harmonies keep building up throughout the song as each sister comes in with a verse. Go enjoy some beautiful music on this Friday.

 

2019 Christmas Ornaments

As I’ve mentioned here before I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs. I think they are the perfect souvenir because they don’t take up a ton of room, they’re useful, and when I pull them out every year I get remember all the great trips I’ve taken. In general they’re also pretty easy to find and keychains will work as a stand-in in a pinch. These are the ornaments I added to my collection in 2019.

  1. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – I picked this ornament up when I went to Cleveland for a conference this past spring. The conference reception was at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which I of course loved. I actually wound up buying this ornament in the airport because the line in the museum gift shop was out of control. It would have taken me at least an hour. I didn’t want an ornament that bad. Luckily the airport provided and I managed to get one, though not the one I had picked out in the museum gift shop.
  2. Hogwarts’ Express – I got this ornament during our trip to Orlando this past February. Obviously it came from inside Harry Potter World in Universal Studios.
  3. The Greek Theatre – I had to substitute a key chain for an actual ornament for The Greek. They had a little kiosk that sold The Greek merchandise where I bought this. There was actually a Christmas ornament listed on their price list, but there wasn’t one on the shelf so they keychain sufficed. I tried to pretty it up a little with a gold bow.
  4. 2019 Mickey and Minnie – This one as you may have guessed came from the same trip to Orlando where I got the Hogwarts ornament. This one I got in Disney World. Way back when we got married our friends bought us a Just Married ornament from Disney World that broke when our tree fell over a few years ago. Not surprisingly they no longer have that same ornament a decade later, and I didn’t want to replace it with a different wedding ornament. So I bought this one instead. I thought it fit my new souvenir ornament rule in that if possible I will only buy something non-breakable because see above story about the tree falling over and broken ornaments. I was obviously wrong about this ornament being something that wouldn’t break easily because I must have not hung it on a sturdy enough branch for its weight and it fell down the first night and their arms where they’re holding hands broke off. I managed to super glue them back on, but I also managed to superglue myself to a paper towel and also get super glue on my great-great grandmother’s ring. I’m hoping if I take it to a professional jeweler to clean they can get it off. At least if they can’t most of it is on the inside of the ring where you can’t see it.
  5. The St. Louis Arch – I bought this one when we went to St. Louis for my cousin’s wedding party in October.
  6. Maryland – The Maryland shaped ornament was one of my anniversary gifts for this year. It’s cut out of stainless steel and steel is the 11th anniversary gift.

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Faith by Galantis and Dolly Parton feat. Mr. Probz

Well Dolly Parton is certainly having a moment, isn’t she? I’m here for it. At some point in the not too distant future I’ll have much more to say in regards to the Dolly Parton’s America podcast but for now I have her foray into dance music. “Have a Little Faith in Me” is originally a song by John Hiatt, but has been covered a bunch. I love the original and I have yet to meet a cover of it that I don’t like. That includes this new dance remix version by Galantis and Dolly Parton featuring Mr. Probz. It dropped at the end of October, but I first heard it on the CMA Awards last week. It’s definitely going to get you chair dancing on this Friday morning. Go listen and bring some joy into your life.

The Best Streaming Show You’re Not Watching: Atypical

We just finished watching the third and most likely final season of Netflix’s show Atypical. I love this show so much. My husband insisted we only watch one episode a night so I could have a little treat every day instead of binging my way through it and running out of episodes in like two days. The show is a great character based dramedy focused on the Gardner family.

Keir Gilchrist plays their teenage son Sam who has autism. Although the show is a lot about how his autism affects the family all of the characters are fully formed and have their own personalities and lives in their own rights. The show is equally about his younger sister Casey who is a high school track star, who loves her brother but doesn’t coddle him. They have a fantastic brother-sister relationship that I love. She also has one of the best depictions of a high school kid questioning their sexuality that I’ve ever seen.

The parents played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rappaport also have their own drama. Elsa, the mother who has poured everything into raising a special needs child, is now facing no longer being needed as much as she once was as her kids are growing up. Their marriage becomes strained and much of the series focuses on them trying to come back from that.

The show never shies away from the difficulties Sam faces or the headaches he can cause for those around him, but it also shows his growth and the great things he also brings to other people. The relationships he has with his girlfriend Paige and his best friend Zahid are wonderful.

My only real quibble with the show, which isn’t a huge one is that for whatever reason they kept Sam’s therapist around after season 1 when things that happened during that season really meant she should have been gone. She shows up fairly sparingly during the third season, but every time she came back I wondered why. The creators must have really liked that actress.

All the relationships on this show feel so real, and that’s why I love it so much. It’s funny and heartfelt. It’s really just such a good show the likes of which are few and far between these days. I’m sadly betting that Netflix won’t be renewing it for another season. They seem to cancel a lot of things after 3 or 4 seasons these days and since I don’t know a single other person who watches this show I feel like it probably doesn’t bring them huge ratings and obviously isn’t bringing them much word of mouth. They did leave all the characters in a good place with the writers obviously sharing my presumption that this will be the end. There’s still plenty of story left to tell if Netflix doesn’t break my heart and actually renews it. Here’s hoping. Seriously go watch it right now and give them a reason to bring it back for a fourth season.

New Music Friday: The Whole of the Moon by Fiona Apple

I’m doing something I don’t normally like to do and sharing a somewhat unauthorized version of a song. Hopefully the YouTube algorithms are getting some of money back to the actual artist. The song in question is a Fiona Apple’s cover of The Waterboys’ song “The Whole of the Moon” with backing vocals by Phoebe Bridgers. It was apparently used in the closing scene in the final episode of the tv show The Affair. I quit watching that show seasons ago, so I didn’t actually see it used there I just heard about it afterwards.

They haven’t officially released a version of this song, but apparently some people have isolated the audio from the show and posted it on YouTube. It would be nice if Fiona Apple actually put out an official version of it. Or maybe it’s destined to be like my white whale of a song, which is Patty Larkin’s cover of Warren Zevon’s “Tenderness on the Block”, which is used at the end of the movie Sliding Doors but for whatever reason wasn’t on the soundtrack and as far as I’ve ever been able to find has never been recorded. Trust me I’ve been looking for 20+ years at this point.

I’ve always loved the original version of this song, and I really like this cover of it as well. It felt fitting to write about this song this week because it feels like it’s been following me a little bit. On Sunday I watched the cheesy, teen Christmas movie Let It Snow that just came out on Netflix and the original version of this song is prominently featured in it. So here’s a slightly subpar recording of Fiona Apple’s version of it. If she ever releases the song for real I’ll come back and link to that instead.

New Music Friday: Take Me There by Delta Rae

Earlier this week I was debating which of the gloriously gloomy female indy rock songs featured on this week’s All Songs Considered I wanted to feature on the blog today. It was an embarrassment of riches if that type of music is your thing like it’s totally mine. You should just go listen to the episode because I wound up pivoting entirely when I found out that Delta Rae was dropping the first single off of their forthcoming album, The Light this morning.

Delta Rae brands themselves as the Great American Southern Gothic Male Female Soul Folk Pop Country Family Band. As such they’ve said they have a lot of problems with record labels because they want to pigeonhole artists into a genre so they can market them and Delta Rae didn’t like feeling like they had to be put in box and constrained in the type of music they were making to please their label. Thus they’re setting out on the indie label road again and they funded their next two albums The Darkness and The Light through Kickstarter (which I backed). They wound up getting fully funded in something like 48 hours so for the rest of the month they just kept adding on ridiculous stretch goals. I for sure know we’re getting a Holiday album, which was what I was most excited about. There’s also going to be an acoustic album and I think some music videos and even a live stage musical of some sort. I sort of lost track.

Unlike the aforementioned sad songs I was considering for this week, “Take Me There” is pretty much the opposite of that. It’s a super peppy song definitely more on the pop spectrum of their music. It’s a much better song for a Friday morning. Go listen and do a little dance.