Wendy Brenner’s classic 2005 profile of snake enthusiast Dean Ripa, who died Saturday. By now I’ve grown accustomed (and rather devoted) to Dean’s rhetorical style—outrageous overstatement, subsequent qualification—but I think I recognize something else, something authentic here: a certain strain of introverted misanthropy… by Wendy Brenner | May, 2017

In his project I Need Some Rest, Florida photographer Carson Gilliland seeks the “clues locked in a profound stillness of primeval night bathed in sodium vapor glow and humid sky.” by Carson Gilliland | May, 2017

The artist works in a style he calls “romantic realism.” In his paintings people are twenty pounds thinner and twenty years younger, often surrounded by heavenly light, riding exotic animals, or framed by mountain ranges. This willingness to flout the… by Nicole Pasulka | May, 2017

Photographs from This Land: An American Portrait. Jack Spencer spent thirteen years working on the project and traveled more than eighty thousand miles across all forty-eight contiguous states looking for scenes and moments that he says are “an expression of the… by Jack Spencer | May, 2017

The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.  Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is… by Kiese Laymon | May, 2017

A previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.  For a dozen wonderful writers:Goodbye to all you girls and guyswho walked this weary way who climbed these hillsand walked these milesthis rocky wooded chase.A dozen wonderful writers by Margaret Walker | May, 2017

My mother was an instinctive cook. Words and directions did not hold much for her. She was a keen observer. She learned to cook from watching her aunts; her grandmother, Maw; her own mother. She loved recipes. Clipped them from the… by Ronni Lundy | Aug, 2016

March 22, 2017

Before the “outlaws” were a movement, I knew Kristofferson was trouble but honorable in his insurrection.

March 09, 2017

We should probably start with the Cowboy. He’s the one you should have met. We all called him a genius. He neither confirmed nor denied. “I ain’t saying I’m a genius,” he’d parry. “But you’ve got to be pretty smart to get all them people saying that on cue.”

September 03, 2012
During the colicky first weeks following the birth of our son, Beckett, my wife and I took turns rising in the night to get him back to sleep. Without recourse to breast milk or the pacifying whispers Emily floated into his burning little ears, I often resorted to dancing him around the living room of our termite-infested rental on Capitol Hill, all the while singing whatever lyrics I could call to mind.

For whatever reason, the one song that presented itself wholesale was “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” the cantering Sonny Curtis number that Keith Whitley took to the top of the country music charts in 1989.
February 14, 2017

To Adia Victoria, Donald Trump is just the latest thing in the history of American oppression.

“The blues to me is personal music. The blues to me is political. And what’s happening politically right now requires artists to get up, pay attention, report about what’s going on.”

December 31, 2014

With eight kids to feed, and making everything from scratch, Mamie McCrary didn’t have time to negotiate supper. So to anything her picky eaters might refuse—pinto beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans—she added a spoonful or two of sugar. Almost fifty years later, whenever her four daughters sit down to eat, sugar bowls come out, adding some sweetness to lives that have seen more than enough hard times.

The sisters—Ann, Regina, Alfreda, and Deborah—continue an even sweeter McCrary tradition, blending their voices in the sanctified harmony that’s their birthright as daughters of Rev. Sam McCrary, one of the key members of Nashville gospel greats the Fairfield Four.

December 27, 2013

On the afternoon of April 9, 1987, a man stood outside the United States penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. He had been convicted of one count of willful failure to file an income tax return and sentenced to a year in prison. His orders from the court were to surrender himself to the institution before April 10. While an accomplice rolled videotape, the man outside the prison, who was both a literalist and something of a showman, held up the day’s newspaper and announced: “I surrender to the institution!”

December 27, 2013

Country music in the 1970s of my adolescence was music for the hopelessly uncool. It was Saturday afternoon television with Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, outlandish in their rhinestones, extolling the virtues of their sponsor, Breeze detergent. It was “Okie from Muskogee,” Merle Haggard’s 1969 hit denouncing drugs, war protesters, and long hair. Country was Hee Haw, and what the football coach who taught Driver’s Ed—he of the short haircut, white polyester shirts, and fierce Texas twang—made us listen to when we drove with him, because it soothed his nerves. 

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, on the other hand, was a country-rock group from Southern California, “a bunch of long-haired West Coast boys,” as country patriarch Roy Acuff called them. But in August 1971 they made their way to Nashville, a little tentatively, to record the album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, a collaboration with an unlikely gathering of old-time country stars that instantly achieved classic status and has never gone out of print.

December 27, 2013

A conversation with Jean Shepard, Jan Howard, Jeanne Pruett, and Jeannie Seely from Winter 2013, the Tennessee Music Issue. 

One of my most cherished memories is with Minnie, just after her first breast surgery. She’d had surgery on Monday and she called me on Friday.  She said, “What are you doing on Monday?” I said, “I don’t know, what are we doing?” She said, “Well, the doctor says I can’t drive but I can eat, so why don’t you pick me up and we’ll go to lunch at the club?” So I get to her house at 11 A.M., and for some reason that day she wanted to show me certain things about her house. She walked me through, telling me stories about everything. It was the greatest three hours that I’ve ever spent with someone who wasn’t family, but it was not with Minnie Pearl, it was with Sarah Ophelia Cannon.

October 18, 2016

A conversation with Guy Clark biographer Tamara Saviano.

“Guy was telling me for at least a year and a half before he died that he would not be here when the book came out.”

October 05, 2016

This weekend is the annual tomato festival at the Bells Bend Neighborhood Farm, and the farmers lay out an all-you-can-eat buffet of the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes grown there: Cherokee greens, Cherokee purples, zebras, Japanese black trifeles, Ozark pinks, Pruden’s purples, and best of all, sungolds, which are small and firm tomatoes that taste warm and almost salty, like they were plucked from the vine on a hot afternoon just moments before they made it to this table. And amid all this sweet bounty: a square dance.

Page 1 of 3