Greg Cochrane’s Podcasts For The People #8 – Dolly Parton’s America, Louis Armstrong and Drag Race UK

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Let’s roll back the clock to July 2019 and the debut Podcasts For The People column. My very first pick in that very first column was George The Poet’s Have You Heard George’s Podcast? That first season from the London author/writer/rapper/activist, released in 2018, still sounds astonishing. So good news, on Monday 4 November it returns. The second run will begin with a batch of five new episodes on BBC Sounds. “Game-changing” gets tossed about a lot, but truly, that first run raised the bar for all of podcast storytelling so expectations are high. In the meantime, here’s what you, and I, have been tuning into.

What Greg’s been listening to

Dolly Parton’s America

The low-down: It won’t have escaped your notice: we live in divisive times. But through it all, there’s one undeniable, indisputable thing we can agree on: Dolly Parton is a legend, and she’s a legend to people across generations. And this podcast is very smart. It’s neither a straight-up documentary journey through Dolly’s life, nor just a specially extended conversation with the Queen of Country. It’s both, and much more. Starting in the ‘60s it’s the evolution of American culture and attitudes told via the prism of Dolly’s ever-changing sound and songwriting. They call this way of considering the world “The Dollyverse” – and everyone can learn something from a brief trip there.

Where to hear it: Apple Podcasts, Spotify – other major podcast apps

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Excuse The Mess

The low-down: No snappy soundbytes or fleeting chats here, this music podcast aims to spend quality time with songwriters to truly understand what makes them tick. In fact, host Ben Corrigan spends a whole day with each of his guests. It’s not just meaty conversation, there’s a twist: at the end of the process Corrigan and the artist co-compose a piece of brand new music. Nothing is preplanned, and they can only use instrument. So yeah, you get a dose of music enlightenment along with a bunch of collaborations unique to the podcast from the likes of Gold Panda, Hannah Peel and many others.

Where to hear it: Acast, Apple Podcast and other providers

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POPS! The Louis Armstrong Story

The low-down: One from earlier this year. POPS! is like the audio book of Louis Armstrong’s story, brought to life by some bewilderingly accurate voice acting from Reno Wilson and clever sound design. Like his nickname (Armstrong had many, including Pops) it fizzes with vivid colour, transporting you to smokey honky tonks and speakeasies. And it doesn’t ignore the tumultuous upbringing one of the most influential figures in jazz emerged from – an absent father, a mother who turned to prostitution to support her children, and his stint in a correctional facility where he first picked up the horn. It’s a journey of triumph, adversity and catharsis… “It’s hard to believe a poor boy from the district travels around the world today just blowing his horn / people everywhere smile and applaud.”

Where to hear it: Major podcast platforms, including Apple

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RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: The Podcast

The low-down: Honest admission: I knew very little about drag culture until checking out RuPaul’s Drag Race UK: The Podcast. This is much more than a standard post-episode analysis podcast that now often accompany so many big shows. Host Scarlett Moffat (yep, off GoggleBox) is an inspired choice, not just because she’s funny but because she’s a genuinely knowledgeable, passionate fan of drag culture. Along with co-presenter Baby Lame their fandom is infectious. Course, with that education, there’s a lot of room to have a laugh with the contestants on this debut UK interpretation of the hit US TV show. Cheryl Hole and Baga Chipz, anyone?

Where to hear it: BBC Sounds

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The low-down: Fancy a trip into the brains of some of the most notorious criminals in history? Plenty of people do, because the first two seasons of Mafia bagged millions of streams. Led by Fleet Cooper the third series has just kicked off, and it starts big with “the man who invented being a rat” Al Capone. Now these gangsters were well-known bastards, but they’ve also been the inspiration for many a loved on screen character. However, this podcast is much more interested in getting close to the real life truth – it goes far beyond the stereotypes of “Tommy Guns” and pin-stripe suits.

Where to hear it: Audioboom

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What you’ve been listening to

Films To Be Buried With

Recommended by: oddjob, @judc47 on Twitter

The low-down: Think Desert Island Discs but with films, right? Comedian Brett Goldstein has been joined by some great guests to talk movies that you’d take to the grave. Just recently that’s been the likes of Susannah Fleming, Rick Edwards and Sam Bain. Check out Jamie Demetriou’s one from August.

Oddjob says: “Because it’s flipping great!!!!!” Fair enough.

Where to hear it: Acast – and the other major podcast apps

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Recommended by: Jack Russell Spooks, @JackDRBruce on Twitter

The low-down: Let’s journey back into gaming land. There’s also plenty of room for an entertaining tangents in this podcast hosted by Lewis, Sips and Pyrion Flax.

JackDRBruce writes: “If you don’t understand why you haven’t listened to it.”

Where to hear it: Podbay, YouTube, Spotify

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Revisionist History

Recommended by: Michelle, @michelletherunr on Twitter

The low-down: For those who consider their podcast listening a chance to learn something. Hosted by Malcolm Gladwell – previously featured in this column for his work on Broken Record – this show revisits an event, person or idea from the past and gives it a second look. It’s diverse: that could be a microscope on Winston Churchill’s advisor or, y’know, the McDonald’s french fries recipe.

Michelle says: “It’s the only podcast I can listen to over and over again.”

Where to hear it: Stitcher, Apple, Google Podcasts

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The Weekly Planet

Recommended by: Henry Cooper, @henryajcooper on Twitter

The low-down: Ex-Primary School teachers turned podcast hosts, James Clement and Nick Mason host this regular show previewing and reviewing comics, TV shows and movies.

Henry says: “The Weekly Planet, hands down! I need my red hot comic book movie news shot up my…” Ahem, cheers Henry.

Where to hear it: Podbay, YouTube, Apple

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Tuesdays With Stories!

Recommended by: Daniel Varela, @DannyVarela9

The low-down: New York-based comedians Joe List and Mark Normand are the duo behind this weekly podcast. You’d think 300+ episodes in they’d be running out of things to say, but it sounds like they’re only just getting started.

Daniel writes: “If you wanna laugh your ass off, listen to these two kooks!”

Where to hear it: Apple Podcasts

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