If there’s one thing we at Nashville Public Radio love more than a recipe that uses Thanksgiving leftovers in an unexpected way, it’s making that delightful recipe while listening to podcasts.
Let’s face it: Audio storytelling — whether on WPLN, 91Classical or your favorite podcasting app — improves any activity, especially those that require the use of hands. Are you hustling through the airport with an overstuffed bag that may or may not fit in the overhead bin of the plane? Stick in your earphones and turn on a podcast. Have you been delegated the unenviable task of chopping onions for Susan Stamberg’s cranberry relish? Choose a tear-jerker episode, and no one will know that you’re actually weeping because of the poignant reflection at the end.
Every year before Thanksgiving, Nashville Public Radio podcast and news producers take great pride in sharing their favorite episodes of the year — some of our own, and many from other producers we admire. How to listen, you ask? We link to each of the episodes directly, or check out our Spotify playlist. You also might find it easier to search for the name in any podcasting app on a smartphone.
Nashville Public Radio Shows
Curious Nashville, “Inside The Governor’s Defunct Nuclear Bomb Shelter”
The podcast experimented with different formats this year, but this exploration of a 1950s fallout shelter ticks most of the boxes for a classic Curious Nashville: There’s local history, mystery, characters who speak their minds, a trip underground and a cameo by some chickens. — Tony Gonzalez
The Tri-Star State, “Why The UAW Strike Is Crossing Party Lines”
I was able to spend some time in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and talk to some of the United Auto Workers strikers about their reasons for being out there. I also talked to Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. All of those conversations made me realize that in Maury County, the strike was not a Democratic or a Republican event. It was a community issue. — Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Movers & Thinkers, “What’s Jesus Got To Do With It?”
Anyone who gets the chance to interview Amy-Jill Levine should. She infuses humor into some of the most contentious, centuries-long religious debates, like, “What happens after we die?” and “Why can’t Jews and Christians just agree already?” And her thoughts on “holy envy” have shifted the way I think about religious differences. — Emily Siner
Versify, “All The Power To All The People”
One of the great things about working on Versify is that it constantly challenges my expectation of what I think I already know. My recommendation for a must-listen episode of our latest season is a conversation that broadened my understanding of American history. Ritagay Sisk-Jamison and Tandekile Francis sit down with poet Courtney Sinclare Brown to talk about the founding of the Philadelphia Black Panther Party, Ritagay’s role as an inaugural member, and how her lifelong association cemented their family’s belief in offering public aid by any means necessary. — Joshua Moore
Classically Speaking, “Hannibal Lokumbe And The Sacred Covenant Of Music”
Hannibal Lokumbe’s visit to Nashville was extraordinarily moving and meaningful. His piece “Crucifixion/Resurrection” memorializes a truly terrible moment in American history and asks all of us to find forgiveness in our darkest and angriest times. — Colleen Phelps
The Promise, “Update: Letting Go”
We are in the midst of producing a second season of The Promise. But earlier this month, we dropped a new follow-up episode with Ms. Vernell. I loved producing this one because as the years have worn on, I’ve gotten really close to Ms. Vernell. I think the intimacy shows in this new episode. Ms. Vernell has a big decision to make: is it time to leave Cayce? If you thought you knew Ms. Vernell, this episode will surprise you. — Meribah Knight
Our Favorites From Outside The Building
Judge John Hodgman, “Quid Pro Ho Ho Ho”
The conceit of the podcast is that friends or loved ones bring their everyday, silly or pointless disputes (more harmless pet peeves than serious problems) to the “court” to be decided by a warm, funny “judge” who has a knack for getting to the crux of the issue via delightful conversation. In this one, a brother and sister seek a ruling on whether or not he should be allowed to opt out of the family’s holiday gift exchange. — Nina Cardona
Tell Them, I Am, “Misha”
This podcast is the standout for me this year, and Episode 0, the prologue in a sense, is what really speaks for the whole 22-episode series. The interviews are with famous to not-so-famous Muslims about everyday things because Muslims are more than their faith, but the media often only turns to them about that aspect of their multifaceted lives. The name of the show comes from the Biblical story of the burning bush that all three Abrahamic religions have in common, in which God tells Moses to tell them, “I am ‘I am.’” — Rachel Iacovone
Nerd alert: I’ve been listening to Iowa Public Radio’s Caucus Land and it’s so, so good — especially if you want to learn more about primaries, political caucuses and democracy as a whole. Great interviews and great context. It’s worth a listen. — Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Have You Heard George’s Podcasts?, “Popcorn”
My new favorite podcast is actually a show Tony Gonzalez recommended to me. I listen to a LOT of podcasts. But this is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Social commentary. Economics. Raw emotion. Music. Plus, a twist. It’s all rap! But in such a subtle, artful way that I didn’t even notice until halfway through the first episode. If you’ve only got time for one episode, I’d recommend “Popcorn.” It shook me to my core, and I’m still thinking about it weeks later. — Samantha Max
Headlong: Running From COPS, “The One-Celled Amoeba”
I’m jealous of how great this show is, with a combination of humor, drama and personal journey all baked into what is ultimately a damning investigation. The thesis is that the massively popular show “COPS” has misled an entire generation about policing and public safety, warped the priorities of some police departments, and violated the rights of many defenseless people who appeared in episodes. — Tony Gonzalez
Endless Thread, “The Great Glitter Mystery”
For the better part of 2019, I’ve told people, “Read the glitter article.” The New York Times published a surprisingly entertaining inside look at the glitter industry that ends with a company rep patently refusing to say who they’re selling all this glitter to. That’s prompted months of speculation online: Is the Department of Defense using it for stealth technology? Are we eating it? Is it being mixed with sand to make beaches more glittery? WBUR’s Endless Thread went after the answer. And they found it! So now I know, and I could tell you, too. But I won’t. Because they don’t want me to. To find out, you have to listen. But before you do, read the glitter article.
The podcast is an extension of the incredible New York Times Magazine issue of the same name. 1619 was the year the first slave ships arrived in America. Now, 400 years later, this audio series provides lesser-known context for a lot of the dates we all grew up learning in school, and the careful, personal touches from the modern black experience in America really set this narrative apart. I’d recommend a single episode, but the six-episode series really should be listened to it in its entirety. — Rachel Iacovone
Dolly Parton’s America, “Neon Moss”
I can’t decide whether to feel sorry for those who haven’t listened to Dolly Parton’s America or envious of them. So many Nashville connections in this podcast, obviously. But many you might not expect, like how Jad’s father, a surgeon at Vanderbilt, made the first introduction to Dolly, which led to an incredible amount of access to this star we all think we know. If I can’t sell you on the series, at least listen to this episode that takes you to the true Tennessee Mountain home. Yes, it’s a real place, with neon moss. — Blake Farmer
There is something about Jonathan Goldstein’s self-deprecating humor that I can’t get enough of — though in actuality, it’s much more serious than he lets on. Goldstein has a knack for nosing out peoples’ vulnerabilities, contradictions and complexities. This podcast, where “he backpedals into the past like a therapist with a time machine,” is on its fourth season. In one episode, he tries to help a recovering heroin addict retrieve a WWII-era Luger that he’d pawned in the height of his addiction. Scott’s grandfather had pilfered the gun off a German soldier during WWII, and it was his father’s prized possession. So Goldstein and Scott go on a mission to recover the pistol. This is a story of redemption and making amends, as well as a fascinating peek into the world of historic gun collectors. — Meribah Knight
Ear Hustle, “Tell Christy I Love Her”
Preach, “Rainn Wilson On His Return To Baha’i And ‘Office’ Binge Watching”
Religious experiences can be beautiful, frustrating and messy, often all at the same time. But people are often reluctant to lean into the mess, especially in conversations with complete strangers. Thankfully, host Lee Hale has a knack for warming up his guests, through a mix of both asking unabashed personal questions and sharing his own complicated journey with Mormonism. In this pilot episode, he talks to Rainn Wilson, aka Dwight on The Office, about the actor’s relationship with Baha’i.
Here’s that Spotify playlist