Few artists have enjoyed a resurgence in appreciation over the past decade like Dolly Parton. But in the 1970s, she fought against the perception that she was just a sidekick to Porter Wagoner … or just a pretty face. It also goes without saying that a lot of people think of other things first when thinking about Dolly, instead of thinking about her talents as a songwriter, singer and musician. But Dolly has remained true to her roots and to herself, and in recent years, she has begun to enjoy an elevated level of respect as an icon, a musician and an unbelievable person. But she’s been crushing it for a LONG time. No better example than 1974’s album “Jolene,” which includes the title track and “I Will Always Love You.” Perhaps you’ve heard of them? While the rest of the songs may not reach the level of those two, other tunes are elevated by Dolly’s lilting, east Tennessee voice, her ability to bring emotion to a story, and her songwriting prowess.


You can listen to Jolene by Dolly Parton on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


Boasting arguably the most famous midriff of the 1990s, Shania Twain rose out of Canada (and poverty) and reinvented country music and even the notion of what constitutes a female superstar. And she did it on her (and her producer-husband’s) terms. Her 1997 album, “Come On Over,” was a country and crossover tour de force, boasting eight singles including “Still the One,” “From This Moment On,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” In doing so, Twain dominated a male-dominated industry, empowered a new generation of female country stars, and became the biggest-selling female solo artist of all time. Not bad for a girl from rural Ontario.

You can listen to Come On Over by Shania Twain on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


There’s more than a 50/50 chance you actually own this album — or did at some point in your life. (Especially if you’re a kid of the 80s/90s and the CD/cassette clubs like BMG or Columbia House.) There’s a very good reason why Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Legend” was in so many disc changers back in the day — and continues to be in regular rotation for many. As far as greatest hits compilations go, this one may be the greatest of them all. It contains 10 of Marley’s UK top 40 hits including and features classics like “No Woman, No Cry,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Redemption Song” and more. But this isn’t just a feelgood summer album (although it is that, too). Never before or since has a Caribbean artist conquered the known world like Marley did. He wrote protest songs that would make Pete Seeger smile, he gave hope to his fellow Jamaicans, and he opened up the minds of people all over the world to the types of lives that were available to those in the poorer sections of paradise. He just happened to do it all to a danceable, reggae sound.

You can listen to Legend by Bob Marley on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


It’s been … one year since the last Finest Worksongs Christmas epipod. But Matt & Matt are back to offer up a couple of Yuletide faves ….and both are quirky and fun – in their own special ways. Barenaked Ladies’ “Barenaked for the Holidays” is quintessential BNL: moments of musical brilliance combined with moments of inane levity. “A Very Special Christmas 3” once again brought music’s top heavy hitters together to put their own, uh, unique spins on holiday classics — and a couple (then) new ones. Giggle your way into the season with our season-ending epipod. And Merry Christmas from Marshmallow and the Duke!

You can listen to Barenaked Ladies as well as A Very Special Christmas, volume 3 on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


Almost out of nowhere, Alabama Shakes’ 2015 album “Sound & Color” took the music world by storm. Fueled by Brittany Howard’s Janice-meets-Aretha soulful treatise on love, loss and longing, “Sound & Color” brings together blues, rock, soul, R&B, Southern rock — and so much more. And the world was here for it all. Fueled by the gritty and thumping “Don’t Wanna Fight,” the album was loved by music fans and music critics at the same time — a novelty, for sure. It would go on to be nominated for six Grammys, including Album of the Year. “Don’t Wanna Fight” would take home the Grammy for both Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. But like the rest of the album, it’s SO much more than “rock.”

You can listen to Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


On our first “Underrated Albums” epipod, we’re sharing two albums that are scandalously under-appreciated. This is the opposite of the pretentious indie rocker touting an album no one would understand even if they could find it. These are albums we’re  dying for the world to hear. For whatever reason, these gems didn’t make it into everyone’s CD catalog or playlist, but it’s never too late. 

References in this Epipod:

You can buy Oh Tall Tree In The Ear by Roman candle online at Bandcamp, or listen to Queen Sarah Saturday on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. You can listen to Roman Candle on those platforms as well, but just go buy it. 


“We all wanna be Bob Dylan.”  In the midst of grunge and new punk, Adam Duritz and Co. were a throwback, not just to folk/pop music, but to the singer-songwriter era. Duritz’s poetic narratives offered a deep look into his soul and psyche, to his desire for belonging and fame. He would get at least the latter thanks to beautiful, pop hits like “Round Here,” “Rain King” and, of course, “Mr. Jones, which remains a radio staple. But the album, “August and Everything After” is a complete piece, often overlooked as a whole due to the momentous success of radio hits. “We all wanna be big stars, yeah, but we got different reasons for that.”

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream August and Everything After by Counting Crows online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


One of the most unique and also most successful fans to come out of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina in the early- to-mid-1990s was Ben Folds Five. Led by Ben Folds, this three-piece (yes, just three of them) crafted clever, cynical jabs at mainstream society — as well as at themselves. But the songs were beautiful, catchy and well crafted, and were pulled from pop, punk, jazz and even classical music. They would find major success on their next album (and Folds would go on to a stellar critical and commercial solo career) but their debut offers us a glimpse at their wild and free beginning. 

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream the debut album by Ben Folds Five online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


In the mid-80s. Lionel Richie didn’t just operate in the same orbit as Michael Jackson and Prince — Richie was his a superstar of his own right. And nothing solidified his place on the charts like “Can’t Slow Down.” At a tidy 8 songs, the album still manages to fuse genres: pop, R&B, rock, Calypso, dance and even country. And it was a pop music juggernaut, solidifying Richie (and his sweet ‘stache) among the biggest of the bigs … at least for a while.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Can’t Slow Down by Lionel Richie online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


There’s a very good chance that if you’ve set foot in a random bar in the South over the last 25 years, you’ve heard the song “Straight to Hell.” This song has all the makings of a prototypical country song: twang; heartache; self-loathing; a catchy, singable chorus to raise a beer to. But it’s a song about a latchkey kid with a somewhat loose, disinterested mother. The song, off Drivin’ N Cryin’s 1989 “Mystery Road” album, gives you a great glimpse of the mystery that is the Georgia band: you probably know the song, but you probably didn’t know it was by them. “Mystery Road” itself is full of contradictions. There are bluesy songs. There are southern rock anthems (“Honeysuckle Blue”). There are hair metal songs. There are protest songs (“With the People”). There are bluegrass songs (“Ain’t It Strange”). At the heart of all of them are Kevn Kinney’s heartfelt and voice-cracking lyrics that make you wanna hug the nearest person. Drivin’ N Cryin’ would reach a larger audience with their follow up “Fly Me Courageous” album, but this is the one that shows the breadth of their heart and talent.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Mystery Road by Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


Before they reached international stardom thanks to the song “’74-’75,” The Connells were something of a regional favorite to music fans along the Eastern seaboard. Man, could they pack a house. The band composed some of the most pop-centered, unforgettable, singalong songs of the late-’80s and ’90s — ANYWHERE. It also didn’t hurt that they came across — even on stage — as just normal dudes. They even looked the part. Nowhere was this devotion to catchy melodies more emphasized than on their third album, “Fun & Games.”  Mention The Connells today to someone of a certain age in Virginia or the Carolinas, and there’s a very good chance this is the album that comes to mind. You can still see the album cover on t-shirts to this day. If that’s not lasting power, we don’t know what is.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Fun & Games by The Connells online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


In our second ever “Listener’s Choice” epipod, we take the Wayback Machine to 1998 when boy bands ruled the world. More specific, NSYNC took the pop world by storm with their debut album. This was the world’s first glimpse of Justin Timberlake, but NSYNC was more than just JT. In fact, they were a perfectly constructed boy band of the finest ilk — even if the group didn’t reach its full potential until later offerings. But “NSYNC” is a 13-song “how to” album chock-full of the boy band formula: pop gold (“Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “I Want You Back”), soulful ballads (“(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You”) and even Euro dance hall beats (“I Need Love”). It was a syrupy, uber-produced glimpse of what was to come … and it was quite the appetizer.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream the debut album by *NSync online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


When The Beatles returned to Abbey Road to record their sixth album, they were exhausted from constant touring and releasing at a pace of two albums a year. They also had virtually no songs prepared. But when it was completed, their sixth album was Rubber Soul, arguably the first actual album, not just a collection of songs. This was the turning point; it’s the album that bridges the British Invasion Beatles to Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. It’s the album that turned the music world on its rear, forcing the band’s rivals and contemporaries like the Beach Boys and Rolling Stones to step up their games.  In essence, with Rubber Soul, the Beatles were just getting started.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Rubber Soul by the Beatles online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


How does a band reach the pinnacle of both commercial and critical success, dominate the airwaves for a handful of years, only to disintegrate into the ether? That’s probably the question that has haunted the members of Līve for two decades now. The band’s second major album, “Throwing Copper,” was omnipresent on both pop and alternative radio. The video for “Lightning Crashes” was an MTV staple. And then? Poof! After some 8 million albums sold (and a couple of moderately successful follow-ups), they were seemingly gone from the radar. (It could have to do with the fact that in this Google/SEO world, the name “Līve” does not render easily on search engines. Shoulda thought that through, boys!) It’s a shame, really. “Throwing Copper” is everything good about quintessential 90s rock, highlighted by singer Ed Kowalczyk’s mystical/nebulous lyrics.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Throwing Copper by Live online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


Hailed as “the grandchildren of the Beach Boys” by one reviewer, this soulful Chapel Hill band was also able to do rock, funk, and blues with impeccable harmonies. The band’s first full-length album, “Rosemary,” brought them incredible acclaim — if mostly on a regional level. But for a while there, they were the headliners while a lesser-known band from Columbia, S.C., was the opener. (Hint: it was Hootie.) “Rosemary” remains a delightful work of art that illustrates why North Carolina’s music scene has always been among the best in the land. And it clearly has lasting power, even if the band itself did not.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Rosemary by Dillon Fence online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 


At the end of the day, Hootie and the Blowfish may have just been four good dudes from South Carolina who hit lightning in a bottle (of probably Bud Light) and offered a pop-heavy, feel-good answer to grunge. But give Darius Rucker & Co. their due: “Cracked Rear View” is one of the best debut albums of all time and it gave us memorable, catchy hits — many of which are way deeper than you may have originally noticed.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Cracked Rear View by Hootie and the Blowfish online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon.