I’ve spent a lot of time recently listening to Bob Dylan’s second album. Not Freewheelin’, the LP with him and Suze Rotolo on the cover and “Blowin’ in the Wind” in the grooves. That’s the one we know, because a… by Elijah Wald | Dec, 2016

A short story from the 2016 Southern Music Issue. Tonight, my cousin Looney celebrated his twenty-first birthday and invited everybody he knew via mass text to come celebrate with him. “Kick it wit ya boy,” the text read. by Regina N. Bradley | Jan, 2017

Atget, Modotti, Weston, Stieglitz, Avedon, Karsh, Brassaï, Bresson, Ulmann. Jim would hand the books to me with no explanation, no bias of who was who and why and what the world already thought of the work. He told me only… by Rebecca Gayle Howell | Jan, 2017

I was halfway through college in South Florida when somebody burned me a copy of Luck of the Draw, Bonnie Raitt's album released in 1991, by then a decade old. Trying not to disturb my roommates, I lay in bed… by Jewly Hight | Dec, 2016

Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach on Junior Kimbrough’s influence. “It’s proven most of the time to be true: some of the music that I love the most, that I want to live with forever, are records I didn’t quite get… by Benjamin Hedin | Jan, 2017

I couldn’t quite figure out why Japanese listeners had come to appreciate and savor the blues in the way that they seemed to—lavishly, devotedly. Blues is still an outlier genre in Japan, but it’s revered, topical, present. by Amanda Petrusich | Jan, 2017

New Orleans Second Lines Culture presents traditions of New Orleans’s African American community seen in second line parades organized by social aid and pleasure clubs. by Charles Muir Lovell | Jan, 2017

Atget, Modotti, Weston, Stieglitz, Avedon, Karsh, Brassaï, Bresson, Ulmann. Jim would hand the books to me with no explanation, no bias of who was who and why and what the world already thought of the work. He told me only to put paper clips on the pages holding photographs that “found something in me.”

In February 2016, the Oxford American received a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. As we look ahead to 2017—and the OA’s twenty-fifth anniversary—we are revisiting just a few of many highlights from our pages in 2016.

The exhibition is a sort of Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness narrative, moving seamlessly from subject to subject. Tattered orange and red dishtowels on a clothesline, each piece of cloth shot through with holes; a line of railway freight cars shrouded in the evening light of the Mississippi Delta; thin shadows cast on brown cinderblocks below a periwinkle-blue sky. The bohemian and gothic Souths collide in Eggleston’s photographs—his bright colors and distinct perspectives imbue rusting signs and aging buildings with a spiritual, emotional darkness that speaks to a decaying world of an older South fading into suburbia and industrial development.

On view right now at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is a crucial exhibition for these times. Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art is a necessarily broad group of artwork that takes the South as its subject and approaches it from a wide array of viewpoints.

Highlights from the Oxford American’s 18th Music Issue: “Visions of the Blues.”

Across the 160-page magazine and 23-song CD compilation, we’re celebrating one of the South’s greatest cultural exports: blues music.

The Memphis Country Blues Festival had a shoestring start in 1966, organized by the Memphis Country Blues Society, an ad hoc group consisting of counterculture figures, musicians, and fans, including Robert Palmer, who would go on to write the seminal book Deep Blues. His daughter, Augusta Palmer, a Brooklyn filmmaker, is seeking to tell the story of the festival in a documentary called The Blues Society.

Highlights from our Fall 2016 issue.

From the liner notes to Light in the Attic’s reissue of the 1971 deep soul classic Time and Place.

Lee Moses possessed all the ingredients for a successful career, but after releasing just one album, Moses would vanish into obscurity in his hometown of Atlanta, where he died in 1997, remaining one of the most underrated but enigmatic figures of rhythm and blues.

We now turn the Notebook over to our summer interns, who leave us today. Thank you for all your hard work! May you never again see a straight quote without flinching.

“My father was a coal miner for thirty-five years and died of black lung,” Howard told me, while resting from the heat and overhead brushstrokes of the outdoor mural he’s working on for a local food pantry. “When I [told my father] I wanted to study art—well, that wasn’t well received.”

Besides the fact that white doves are rare in East Kentucky (unless they are being released from wire cages at your mine-site nuptials), this dove sent a cold chill across Cowan because he’d arrived none other than on the day after Ralph Stanley passed.

Irrespective of the national debate over gun control, for many Americans, the heart and the soul is located near the trigger finger. Inevitably, firearms have figured into the Oxford American time and again.

This week the editors are looking ahead at the 50th anniversary of Charles Portis's first novel, Norwood.

This week, the editors are listening to Chris Maxwell and Brandy Clark; dreaming of Appalachian cuisine; and remembering The Greatest. 

Roll down the road and the rails and a river this summer with stories of humanity on the move that are summery and light, lyrical and meditative.

This week, our departing interns offer their recommendations for our readers, including a book that upends preconceptions, a band that performs rarely, and a story of death, birth, and donkey testicles.

A vibrant literary magazine ought to not only fuel the culture, but should have something to say about it, too.

Cramming

By  |  April 29, 2016

Lately, the editors have enjoyed the latest issue of VQR, a knockout; listened to the music of Daniel Martin Moore, a Commonwealth of Kentucky Nick Drake; and spoken with Karan Mahajan and Garth Greenwell, the authors of two remarkable and remarkably distinct novels.

A video supplement to Once Was Lost, a collaboration between photographer Richard Leo Johnson and poet C. D. Wright from our Spring issue, featuring Forrest Gander.

It’s sunny in California. A thousand poets spin around each other, singing their verses into each others’ ears while spectators, smiling, sip their cocktails. Back in the South, a painter touches up a historic, complex mural—long weathered by thundering spring storms. At the newsstand nearby, the owner opens up the latest issue of his favorite weekly, the Arkansas Times.

Fog settles over the Ozarks. A car, winding through the hills, stops short—a mountain lion is slinking across the road, in patient, determined pursuit. Southward, in Little Rock, a group of Southern film devotees gathers in a basement to view an early screening of Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special. Nearby, a gospel quartet warms up, summoning the Holy Spirit, ready to take their next audience to church.

On April 7, 2016, the Oxford American will participate in ArkansasGives, a twelve-hour online giving event hosted by the Arkansas Community Foundation. We hope that our readers—all you believers—will save the date and support the Oxford American.

One evening in Nashville, a man walks down the railroad tracks, singing, and his voice rolls through the heavy air. In Meridian, Mississippi, a child runs barefoot in dry grass, chasing lightning bugs—yellow lights that disappear just as his hands reach toward them.

 

It’s humid in Alabama. On a makeshift sandlot pitcher’s mound, a lanky kid begins his wind-up to the tune of a song he alone can hear. It’s a lilting number, chaotic and beautiful, clarinets and fiddles weaving intricately. He lifts his arms above his head. He could be the greatest ever, the poet laureate of baseball, he thinks—then he smiles, takes a deep breath, and delivers another swinging strike.

Since joining the Oxford American in 2014, I’ve taken the occasion of our annual music issue to offer our readers a variety of special poetry features. I feel that our Georgia issue, aligned with the spirit of that state, acts as a little archive of a certain time and place, a bound capsule of song and sensibility.

It’s nighttime in Mississippi. A bluegrass legend, alone in the hills, rolls into a familiar lick, catches a wrong note, winces, and sighs a hot, whiskey breath. Letters between lost friends float by, lifted on a westerly wind.

Even as we approach deadline for our Spring 2016 issue, we feel we still have one foot back in Georgia, where we spent so much time and energy producing our music issue last year.

We Did It!

By  |  February 05, 2016

For the first time in our 24-year history, the Oxford American brought home a National Magazine Award in General Excellence!

It’s snowing in the South. A woman rises early, looks out her window at the sheets of ice, and then, smiling, falls back into bed. In an apartment down the hall, Stephen Curry highlights play on TV, and someone sings, They could have had him any day, they only let him slip away. 

Dusk falls in the city. In a small and dimly lit corner bar, a jazz collective tunes up their horns, preparing to combust rhythms into the night. A man, trying to find the club on Google Maps, stops for a passing group of black-dressed mourners. From his car window he sees a young woman leaving a used bookstore with a copy of C. D. Wright’s Cooling Time

A collector ambles down to his basement, tripping on boxes packed with rabid miscellany. He hears Julien Baker’s “Blacktop” wilting from the turntable in the living room. Somewhere on the highway, a car idles in the snow, its headlamps brightening the darkness beyond the shoulder.

This year saw numerous milestones for the Oxford American, but nothing stands out more than the stories we were fortunate enough to publish. Here are just a few of many highlights from the pages of the OA in 2015.

A heartbreaking deep soul classic by Atlanta’s Lee Moses almost became the third ’60s-era song called “Bad Girl” to grace an OA music issue CD.

Today, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including an Art Works award of $20,000 to the Oxford American to support the publication and promotion of the magazine in 2016.

Kiese Laymon reads from his essay “Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel)” from the Oxford American’s Georgia Music Issue.

From the country blues to early jazz to gospel, soul, metal, rock & roll, hip-hop, and beyond—there isn’t a corner of American music the people of this state haven’t made their own.

We are pleased to announce that Eliza Borné is the new editor of the Oxford American, succeeding Roger D. Hodge, who left the magazine in June.

This Fall, the New Orleans–based filmmaker Christian Walker is raising funds to make a short film based on Randal O’Wain’s Oxford American essay “Arrow of Light,” which he “saw play out perfectly as a film in my head.”

From now until December, we’re offering a series of special offers through PledgeMusic: limited-edition Georgia Music issue posters, t-shirts, and more. 

Bright Fields

By  |  September 25, 2015

This fall, two historic exhibitions—and a squirrel recount—have our attention.

“I find that people who live close to the earthly, fundamental things usually have more character in their faces,” said painter Marie Hull, whose work is on view at the Mississippi Museum of Art until January 10, 2016.

This issue includes “The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy,” a radical libretto by Nikky Finney; a profile of a transgender drug counselor who lives on the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, by Jonathan Blitzer; John T. Edge’s exploration of Southern theme restaurants; and more.

The sun’s shining through the windows in Georgia. A poet climbs into her attic and takes down a box of old photos, opens it, and tilts the images into the light. A page from an old notebook peeks out of the stack. Jimmy Rabbitt’s “Wheels’ Rollin’” starts skipping on the record player.

The sun is going down in New Orleans. A man turns onto Frenchman Street, putting out a cigarette on the old brick sidewalk. He hears laughter coming from inside a bar. Nearby, a local bookstore owner closes up for the night.

In May, Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson loaded up a tour bus in Nashville with some of their songwriting friends and headed to Little Rock for a night of food and drink and music in the round.

The moon shines over the Delta. A poet wanders home in the dark, her shadow extended by a streetlamp that flickers on, then off again. Alone in a bar, a young detective scratches hasty notes. She thinks she can hear the bartender humming Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”

In August, Iris DeMent will release her sixth album, The Trackless Woods, a collection of songs based on eighteen poems written by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966). The album was recorded in five days last summer in DeMent’s living room and includes poetry from throughout Akhmatova’s life. In this short video, filmed in her home, DeMent reflects further on the writing and recording of the album.

Our new issue includes ten short stories—and they are all, in their individual ways, love stories. This week we celebrate the release of our Fiction Issue and bid a fond farewell to editor Roger D. Hodge.

Remembering B.B. King.

Many wonderful anecdotes from King’s long, prolific life have been told in our pages through the years, from the moment in 1948 when he arrived unannounced at Memphis’s WDIA, integrating the airwaves, to his performance last year in Indianola, Mississippi, where he returned for his final homecoming concert at age eighty-eight.

An interview with the photographer from 1999.

I suppose one definition of propaganda (or pornography?) might be: art that denies the mysterious.

The sun rises over the mountains. A young girl wakes up and pads to the kitchen, where a pot of coffee has been left alone to brew. A plane passes close overhead. Out on the deck, a frayed hammock swings in the breeze.

It’s springtime on the Plains. A group of writers mill nervously around a brightly lit bar. A woman stalks dusty library shelves, scanning names on the canvas spines. Somewhere in Florida, a thunderstorm is brewing.

This month, Omnivore Recordings reissued a forgotten Memphis classic, a kind of conceptual compilation called Beale Street Saturday Night, produced by Jim Dickinson in 1979. To celebrate the rerelease of this masterpiece, the Oxford American is pleased to present Dickinson’s “The Search for Blind Lemon,” from our 2013 Tennessee Music Issue.

It’s raining in the Piedmont. A group of poets clink glasses in mutual congratulation. A father and son listen, with hunched shoulders, around an old phonograph. Pages of a burning journal smolder in a sink.

Since many of the best musicians working in Nashville over the years are Texans, a good portion of Jim McGuire’s ongoing Nashville Portraits series features the iconic natives of the Lone Star state, including the stunning 1975 image of Guy and Susanna Clark that graces the cover of our Texas music issue.

It’s midnight in Kentucky. A man sits at a desk, pecking at an ancient Apple I computer; the light’s still on in the basement. Somewhere a juke box is playing “A Feather’s Not A Bird,” by Rosanne Cash. A glass of bourbon bounces when it hits the barroom floor.

It’s nighttime in the country. A woman slips out of bed and looks in the mirror. She hears Bonnie Montgomery’s new album on the radio. An old prisoner swears he ain’t gonna work on Parchman’s farm no more.

Notebook

By  |  January 23, 2015

In Notebook, the Oxford American offers recommendations, notes, and musings. This week: Against the Country, Dept. of Speculation, and Greg Jackson's "Serve-and-Volley, Near Vichy."

The staff of the Oxford American is delighted to welcome you to the new OxfordAmerican.org. The website, built by Little Rock's Pixel Perfect Creative, has been reorganized for usability, and the design—created by OA art director Tom Martin—reflects our quarterly print edition. A starting point for exploration might be the following essays, which were among the most-visited stories on our website in 2014.

Cue the bourbon toast—the Oxford American is proud to be nominated for a 2015 National Magazine Award: Chris Offutt’s irreverent “cooking” column is a finalist in the Columns & Commentary category.

An OA playlist: There are thousands of versions of the song “John Henry,” and every one, Greil Marcus argues in “Guitar Drag,” is “an affirmation of the power of a single African American to deny and defeat the white power set against him even if it costs him his life, but not his dignity, with the song rolling down the decades from the 1920s.” As a companion to the essay, Marcus offers this playlist, his choice of the versions of “John Henry” that stand out among the others.

Whether you want it or not, there will more than likely be some sort of ceremony to mark your passing, and you hope it will be a celebration of your life, not your death. Either way, let’s say that before you kicked the bucket you’ve specified the manner in which you’d like to be disposed, and that’s been carried out. (I, for instance, plan to be buried in my ’73 VW Beetle in my backyard beside all my beloved cats and dogs.) Have you given directions for your wake—how you would like to be celebrated?

All the main characters in “literature” were from London and New York and St. Petersburg, but the book with the character from Little Rock was the funniest book you’d ever read, including your previous funniest book, Lucky Jim. And because Little Rock is little, your parents lived in the same apartment complex as this writer, and so you had his address.

It’s difficult, indeed practically impossible, to imagine life prior to recorded music. What recorded music we possess to today, that was played by people who themselves had not yet heard recorded music, is very different music indeed.

In memory of T-Model Ford. 

Though they started slow and sparse, Ford’s songs revved up quickly, clattering along like a procession of old Cadillacs, their motors jimmied together with wire hangers, the rhythms more beautiful for their brokenness.