From the masterminds behind podcast heavyweights This American Life and Serial comes the beautiful and devastating seven part story called Shittown.

Much in the same way that Serial was born, Shittown started with an email to the producers of This American Life, with a subject line that read “John B Macklemore lives in Shittown, Alabama”. The eccentric redhead from Woodstock in Bibb County, was writing to try to get the famous radio show to look into “some of the going ons down here.” After one of the allegations against McLemore turned out to be true, Brian Reed went to Alabama to investigate a rumoured unsolved murder. The story he uncovers there is very different from what he expects.

In the opening episode, Reed spins an extended allegory which makes a lot more sense the further though the season you get. Discussing clock restoration he explains;

“You are constantly wondering if you have just spent hours going down a path that will likely lead you nowhere. All you have got are vague witness marks which might not even mean what you think they mean. So at every moment along the way you have to decide or not.”

Listeners should heed this as a warning, that Shittown will not go where you expect. An experienced Serial listener will not be surprised at the dead ends and twists that Reed takes us through. If a linear story is what you want, then this is not for you. 

However, if what you want is a intimate and compassionate look at a man living in a struggling, repressed rural white Southern community Shittown is an absolute must listen.

The rich profiles of the characters in this community show the complexity of experience in rural Alabama, while remaining consciously devoid of national politics. Reed’s experiences with the characters are a profound and intensely personal look at a community struggling with family relations, drugs, crime, mental illness, intergenerational poverty and small town prejudices.

The beautiful metaphors and creative language is expertly tied with first person accounts of Reed’s two year struggle with this investigation and the production of the series. Shittown is the pinnacle of what podcast long form journalism can be, and will appeal to anyone from podcast enthusiasts to first time podcast listeners. C

Check out the S-Town website to listen.

If you are new to podcasts, there is an organisation that can help you get involved in this fantastic medium. Check out Trypod here.