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OA NEWS—Alex Rawls named Guest Editor of The Oxford American's 2012 Southern Music Issue

Published  July 25, 2012

Alex Rawls

Alex Rawls, a longtime fixture of the Louisiana music and journalism scenes, will be the Guest Editor of The Oxford American's 2012 Southern Music issue, which will be released on December 1.

"Through his many years of writing and editing in New Orleans, Alex has a broad and intimate knowledge of the music of Louisiana," said Warwick Sabin, publisher of The Oxford American. "He understands its diverse history and he knows that it requires sensitivity, nuance, and some playfulness to tell the stories in an authentic and engaging way. The close relationships he has cultivated with writers and musicians -- and their respect for him -- will ensure that he delivers a fun and memorable Southern Music issue for our readers to enjoy."

The Oxford American's 2012 Southern Music Issue will be published in December and will be available at bookstores and newsstands nationwide. It will be packaged with a CD dedicated to the exploration of Louisiana music. The magazine will also include a special editorial section with articles about the artists and songs featured on the CD. This is the fourth consecutive year that The Oxford American's award-winning and critically acclaimed Southern Music Issue will focus on the musical heritage of a particular Southern state. (Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi were featured in the last three editions, respectively.)

"Louisiana has produced some of the world's most beloved musicians across a wide range of genres, and its musical heritage is already widely respected and admired," Sabin said.  "Our challenge is to thoughtfully and deeply explore the music of Louisiana, in order to unearth hidden treasures and introduce our readers and listeners to people and stories they otherwise would never know.  As we have proven over the years, that is what The Oxford American does best, and we are up to the challenge."

The Louisiana CD and the editorial section about Louisiana music is produced in partnership with the Louisiana Office of Tourism. After the 2012 Southern Music Issue is released, The Oxford American will work with Lt. Governor Dardenne and the Office of Tourism to hold events throughout the state to celebrate the musical heritage of Louisiana.

Alex Rawls has been covering music and culture in New Orleans for more than 15 years. He freelanced for OffBeat Magazine, writing about books and music from 1997 until 2004, when he became the music editor at Gambit, New Orleans' alt-weekly. There he wrote about music, art and comics until Hurricane Katrina forced a radical reduction in the size of the magazine's staff. After the storm, Rawls freelanced around the country, writing about Katrina for Spin, alt-weeklies and dailies. His feature "Lost in the Flood" for No Depression led to a year-long column in the magazine on the city's slow progress toward recovery, and in the years after he wrote for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times and other publications. He has also presented papers three times at The EMP Pop Conference, a yearly conference for ethnomusicologists, journalists, critics and historians - once on the effects of the city's housing shortage on the return of the music community, once on songs inspired by Hurricane Katrina, and once on the economic impact of HBO's Treme on the city's musicians.

In January 2006, Rawls began a five-and-a-half-year stint editing OffBeat, Louisiana's music and culture monthly. During that time, he helped tell the story of New Orleans' complicated, difficult renewal, paying attention to the roles played by some of the city's established musicians as well as emerging artists whose contributions were just as important if less obvious. The magazine addressed the efforts of the music community to not only return but decide what form it would adopt. At the same time, a young Cajun and zydeco community emerged in Lafayette that addressed the relationship between tradition and the future in dynamic ways, and OffBeat focused on that as well. The magazine paid attention to genres and music communities that found new audiences, as well as artists and styles that had to once again prove themselves.

Rawls helped strengthen OffBeat's online presence during his time there, and earlier this year he stepped down from his editor post to launch his own music and culture website, My Spilt Milk, which has already drawn attention for the questions it raised about contemporary second line practices following the death of the Treme Brass Band's "Uncle" Lionel Batiste. Rawls has also been a teacher, having taught English Composition and Literature classes at Delgado Community College - West Bank for 14 years. He earned his B.A. in English at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and earned an M.A. in English at the University of New Orleans.

The Oxford American's annual Southern Music Issue has won two National Magazine Awards and other high honors since it was first introduced in 1999. It is considered by many readers and listeners to be among the best music packages in the country. Over the years, NPR has featured many of The Oxford American's Southern Music Issues on its broadcasts. The New York Times once wrote, "The Oxford American may be the liveliest literary magazine in America … the  CDs are so smart and eclectic they probably belong in the Smithsonian." The Houston Chronicle has called it, "The single best music-related magazine of any given year," while The Boston Globe simply termed it "a welcome fix." Musicians like Dolly Parton, Chris Isaak and Tom Petty have also gone on record to praise it. The Southern Music Issue has showcased both famous and criminally neglected musicians, everyone from R.E.M. to the Gants, Isaac Hayes to Erma Franklin, Lucinda Williams to Karen Dalton, Carl Perkins to the Armstrong Twins, Willie  Nelson to Gary Stewart, Jerry Lee Lewis to Nellie Lutcher and more. Such music writing leaders as Greil Marcus, William Gay, Stanley Crouch, Peter Guralnick, Steve Martin, Rosanne Cash, Nick Tosches, and Kevin Brockmeier—among many  others—have contributed memorable writing to the Southern Music Issues.

About The Oxford American

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, The Oxford American is a national magazine that is dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. Billed as "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing," it has won three National Magazine Awards and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The magazine has featured the original work of such literary powerhouses as Charles Portis, Roy Blount, Jr., ZZ Packer, Donald Harington, Donna Tartt, Ernest J. Gaines, and many other distinguished authors, while also discovering and launching the most promising writers in the region. The magazine has also published previously unseen work by such Southern masters as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, James Dickey and Carson McCullers, to name just a handful.

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