Calling Fresh Air a podcast may be a bit of a stretch. Every week, nearly 5 million people listen to the show’s host Terry Gross talk to an eclectic collection of public figures from her WHYY studio in Philadelphia. Since 1987, the Fresh Air team has cranked out daily, one-hour shows. It’s aired on almost 600 stations worldwide, and has effectively cemented its status as a cultural touchstone.


Jason Isbell photo by Eric England

Fresh Air is a pretty big deal. Not to imply podcasts can’t be a big deal; I’m just saying this show has a bit more going on. BUT it was an early adopter of podcast technology, and championed the idea of portable programming very early on.

Keeping up with Gross and Company can be a full-time job. I’ve come to rely on their weekend recaps (Fresh Air Weekend) to keep me up to date, and last week was a doozy:

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell, former (and the most talented) singer-songwriter for the Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, talked with Gross about his new album Southeastern, as well as his struggles with addiction, and his newly found sobriety. He sings songs and charms his way through the interview. If you haven’t bought the album or cherry picked some songs from iTunes yet, you will after you hear this episode.

Great music, cool guy. And there’s an awesome blooper in the middle where Isbell drops his guitar right in the middle of Gross’s question. Come to think of it, that  may’ve been edited out of the weekend edition. Anyway, great guest, good interview.

Cuckoo’s Calling

Literary critic Maureen Corrigan reviews J.K Rowling’s pseudonym-penned novel Cuckoo’s Calling in one of the shorter segments.  Corrigan is less than impressed with Rowling’s stab at detective fiction, and says, “I couldn’t even find a memorable quote from this novel. The only really distinctive thing about The Cuckoo’s Calling is its title, which comes from a Christina Rossetti poem … The only surprise in Rowling’s [book] is the author … Robert Galbraith.”

Side note: Corrigan, a professor of literature at the prestigious Georgetown University, misuses the word ‘entitled‘ in her review. Another side note: I may’ve just misused the single quotation mark when commenting on Corrigan’s grammar flub.

Orange Is The New Black

TV critic David Bianculli  has a little segment on Orange Is The New Black, the new Netflix series created by Jenji Kohan, who also created Weeds. Bianculli calls it another Netfilx success, but I’ve watched the show, and honestly, there were just too many exposed boobies for me to take it seriously. I see it’s merit; I just couldn’t find the story beneath all that skin.

Verdict: a good wrap up. Take a listen: Fresh Air Weekend