Podcasts have become the go-to format for many types of artists to share their gifts with the world. Over the past decade, though, it seems geek culture (Nerdist), comedy (Adam Carolla, Marc Maron) and podcast-friendly forms of journalism (This American Life, Serial) have been far more popular for smartphone folks than music has been. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of high-quality music-focused podcasts out there worth your time, however.
For country and Americana fans, plenty of casts will help you discover new talent, keep up with old favorites and generally help your days pass by a bit more musically. Sure, there are many fine examples of podcasts with a wider scope that sometimes delve into rootsier material, and many more must-hear podcasts that avoid twang altogether, but we’re here to help those who need a very specific itch scratched with some top-notch storytelling and more than a hint of pedal steel. Here are five country and Americana podcasts to download now.
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The Working Songwriter
Hosted by acclaimed young singer-songwriter Joe Pug, this new monthly podcast is only two episodes into its run, but what it lacks in volume, the two episodes more than make up for in star power. The premiere episode featured Pug meeting with Flatlander and all-around badass Joe Ely at his ranch, while the most recent episode has Joe hanging with another Texas-based songwriting icon, James McMurtry. The production is clean, and Pug’s delivery and interview style have a calming NPR quality that allows the listener to really sink into the middle of these in-depth conversations on where legendary artists find inspiration for their art. It seems that Pug, who moved to Austin from Chicago a few years ago (and plays the Mucky Duck Saturday), has really let the musical landscape of his adopted home lead him in a rather interesting direction.
Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett
Though Shiflett is most commonly known as the lead guitarist for the Foo Fighters, arguably the biggest rock band in the world, he’s long been a twang-o-phile. As lead singer for his side-band, the Dead Peasants, Shiflett has recorded a couple of albums that carry the raucous energy of his main gig and combine it with a PBR-soaked sensibility. It’s certainly intriguing to get to know the man who rarely gets a chance to speak up from behind Dave Grohl’s larger-than-life persona (he enjoys skateboarding and soccer!), but it’s even cooler to peruse the list of guests Shiflett has had on the podcast. Being a major rock star has surely helped him land rebels such as Sturgill Simpson, Merle Haggard, Steve Earle and Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, not to mention alt-country studs such as the Old 97’s Rhett Miller and the Drive By Truckers’ Patterson Hood.
The Rattle Hour
Hosted by Tanner Griggs, this podcast is a branch off the Rattle magazine tree. In a short amount of time, Rattle has become a dependable source for wisdom regarding the brightest of Texas country and Americana up-and-comers. Where many music podcasts either settle for playing songs or only feature artist interviews, the Rattle Hour covers a wide swath of land. Interviews, performances and even an Americana chart countdown can be comfortably placed into a single episode. Notable artists such as BJ Barham of American Aquarium, Van Darien, John Baumann and Statesboro Revue are just a few of the worthy performers featured on the Rattle Hour so far.
Country Fried Rock
Hosted by the über-professional Sloane Spencer, Country Fried Rock is a self-proclaimed “podcast about music, without music," with run times much shorter than the other podcasts on this list. The musician interviews are still insightful and, more often than not, will send you looking for the featured artist’s latest record. With more than 300 episodes under its belt, a combination of big names and lesser-known acts provide a balance to the increasing catalog of episodes. The Devil Makes Three, Drew Holcomb, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Corb Lund, Caleb Caudle and Band of Heathens have been heard here, among dozens of others. This is a great choice for a bit of quick learning.
New Slang Podcast
Hosted by Thomas D. Mooney as an extension of the fine New Slang blog, this Lubbock-based podcast is still in its infancy, though it’s been a nice run of shows already. The premiere episode featured Evan Felker and R.C. Edwards of the Turnpike Troubadours for a bit of conversation and a performance of a new song. Often (unfairly) overlooked on the Texas music map, Lubbock is a rich well of talent young and old, and this site and its podcast offer a one-stop shop for what us East Texas types need to know about the western Plains.