If you’re like me, a podcast may not be your ideal listening or entertainment material. But when I kept hearing great reviews of the podcast S-Town, all of that changed. I decided to change my ways and give it a try; it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this month. S-Town is a seven part exploration of a man, John B. McLemore, who lives in Woodstock, Alabama.
When John B. contacted Brian Reed, podcast producer and narrator, about a murder that had taken place in his town, Reed decided to investigate. What he uncovered, and what listeners learn over the course of the series, is a story that rivals any novel. The listener meets a cast of characters who are incredibly, but deeply human.
John B. is a classic eccentric. He lives in a small town, is incredibly smart, and has found hundreds of ways to keep himself entertained. He has a giant maze in his backyard, knows an astounding amount of information about climate change and countless other topics, may or may not have a huge fortune, rescues dogs, and still manages to be a master clock restorer. Over the course of the show, it delves into John’s likes and dislikes, friends, family, romantic relationships, and more.
S-Town captivates its audience from the first note of the theme music. Each element, from the story itself to the editing and all other people involved had me hanging onto each word and wanting only to keep listening. The interviews, combined with Reed’s own analysis and descriptions of the area, provide an in depth look at life in a small town, mental illness, and John B. himself. The story of John B. is tragic, for the sake of avoiding spoilers I will say no more, but that should not deter anyone from listening to it. Reed explores tragedy with the ease of an expert storyteller. Each detail is important, each plot line finds a way to connect to the other, it’s methodological but human nonetheless.
I was able to connect to the podcast from my first listen. I was skeptical of its appeal at first, but five minutes into Chapter One, I knew I was hearing something special. If you need something new to listen to or if you’re just bored, try S-Town — you won’t regret it.