“Imagine the greatest mixtape accompanied by the best liner notes ever.”
—Beale Street Caravan
“It’s my favorite magazine day of the year.”
—David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker
The Oxford American’s annual Southern music issue has long held special meaning for our readers, many of whom collect it, eagerly anticipate it, and enthusiastically tell us what we get right (and wrong) every year. Now in its nineteenth installment, the project is ambitious and irresistible. In an era of shrinking page counts and ephemeral playlists, our music issue is a thick print magazine, packed with gorgeous artwork and indelible writing, and paired with a CD compilation—all beautifully designed and all centered around the inexhaustible theme of Southern music.
From 2009 until 2015, our music issue featured a different Southern state every year (raise your hand if you’ve got them all: Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia). Last year, we departed from the series to examine “Visions of the Blues.”
In 2017, we are returning to the state series. And we are thrilled to announce that it’s your turn, Kentucky.
The Commonwealth gave us musicians like Loretta Lynn and Nappy Roots, Richard Hell and Bill Monroe—just to name a very few—and beloved writers like Crystal Wilkinson, Ronni Lundy, Silas House, and our own poetry editor, Rebecca Gayle Howell. Below, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite music essays from the OA archive. This is just a taste of Kentucky and a taste of what’s to come.
We invite you to come back for more reading—and listening—in November.
The Oxford American’s Kentucky music issue will mail to subscribers on November 7, 2017.
Copies will be available in our online store and on newsstands nationwide on November 21, 2017.
Pre-order your copy from Oxford American Goods
Kentucky in the OA archive:
Dave Evans and the Bluegrass Palace
Lee Johnson in search of Dave Evans
“I left my home in Tennessee when I was eighteen, toured the country with a rock band, followed a girl up north for college, and then returned south to Charlottesville, Virginia, where I befriended a country musician named Pete Winne. Not long after we met, he asked if I wanted to go with him to East Kentucky for Dave Evans’s sixtieth birthday party. I didn’t recognize the name at first, but from what Pete told me about the man, it sounded like it would be a great opportunity to play music and really learn from a master. For the past few years, Pete had been working at Rebel Records, Dave's longtime label, and had met the man a few times. He hoped to convince him to record some more of the songs he wrote while in prison.”
Baby Boy Born Birthplace Blues
John Jeremiah Sullivan delves into his hometown’s history
“Silver Hills forms part of the little town of New Albany, Indiana, itself a kind of satellite city to Louisville, Kentucky. On a map or from a plane, New Albany looks like the northwest section of Louisville, but the Ohio River slithers between from the east and divides them, such that one section is Louisville and the other New Albany, one in Kentucky and the other Indiana, one in the South and one the North. My house and school were in New Albany, but my parents’ jobs and families—their own childhoods—were all in Kentucky. I grew up moving back and forth across a line that happened to coincide for a stretch with the Mason-Dixon Line, riding over the bridge in the backseat of a station wagon.”
Dig If You Will the Picture
Crystal Wilkinson falls for Prince
“Indian Creek, Kentucky. Sixteen. Black, country, and full of sexual energy. I copied my style from magazines: bell-bottom jeans and blue peasant blouses and striped knit shirts that clung to my breasts. Platform shoes and wooden Candie’s high heels. I sprayed Avon’s Sweet Honesty perfume behind my ears and rolled on strawberry lip gloss. I sported an Afro, or a mushroom hairstyle, or bone-straight bangs feathered around my face. I oozed sexuality, but I was a virgin. I was Christian, a timid member of the small congregation at Pine Lick Baptist, the church where my grandparents worshipped. I had an active imagination and a harnessed wildness. I kept secrets.”
Yours for the Carters
Jennifer Joy Jameson on the founder of the Carter Family Fan Club
“I’ve always been drawn to collectors, to people who carefully select or enthusiastically gather things others might toss aside. A deeply occupied space often has a story to tell, and sometimes, more is more. In the small, agricultural community of Drake, Kentucky—between Bowling Green and Nashville, about a half-hour north of the Tennessee border—is a small country store called Drake Vintage Music and Curios, and its proprietor, a man named Freeman Kitchens, is the most singular collector I’ve ever encountered. His specialty then and now is the founding act in popular country music: the Carter Family. At one point, Freeman Kitchens had collected every sound recording, television clip, and radio broadcast ever produced by the Carters, and stored them in his unassuming outpost in Drake, organized according to ever-changing criteria known only to him. He founded the Carter Family Fan Club around 1950 and served as its president for more than thirty years.”