A story by Jesmyn Ward, the third and final excerpt from her forthcoming novel  Sing, Unburied, Sing. The officer is young, young as me, young as Michael. He’s skinny and his hat seems too big for him, and when he… by Jesmyn Ward | Sep, 2017

Take Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill (can I call you Sturgill?) is a Kentucky rascal, born in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Jackson—population around twenty-one hundred. He comes from a family of coal miners. He was in the Navy. He worked… by Leesa Cross-Smith | Nov, 2017

A girl was singing in one of the houses we passed. The sound rose up on the wind and out of the brownstone and out of the window down to us on the air. This girl behind that fluttering window… by Crystal Wilkinson | Nov, 2017

A Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note.   For some twenty-five years I’ve maintained an obsession with four specific seconds in all the history of rock & roll. Four seconds of a single guitar ripping a hot lick, the opening salvo to a… by Kirby Gann | Dec, 2017

In 1966, Loretta Lynn was anything but little. She had already released eight solo studio albums. Just one year later she would be the first woman in country music to achieve a certified gold album for Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’… by Marianne Worthington | Nov, 2017

It was 1995, the year Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” was released, the end of my eighth-grade year, in rural Kentucky where homophobia was—and continues to be—rampant. My secret boyfriend and I—the one I had kissed in darkened classrooms after… by Jason Howard | Nov, 2017

Interviews with Dwight—at least mine—always occurred on Dwight Time and largely in Dwight Space. About two hours before that first phone interview, Dwight called to apologize and say his day was crazy. Could we reschedule? I said sure, we set… by Ronni Lundy | Nov, 2017

The Old Regular Baptists and the joyful sound. The Old Regulars sing loud. “You can’t whisper it, it needs to have zip,” one told me. Another: “If you can’t shout down here, what are you gonna do when you get to… by David Ramsey | Nov, 2017

Notes on the songs from our 19th Southern Music Issue CD featuring Kentucky. This faculty, to be attuned to one’s surroundings and the ways in which they’re unique, to be rooted in the local, to be of a certain place—no matter if… by Oxford American | Nov, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

If you are unfamiliar with Texan Kevin Russell, the singer/songwriter and guitar, mandolin, and ukulele player who lately goes by the nom de pluck Shinyribs, as does his brilliant funking, picking, and punking band, it is totally misleading for me to introduce you, as I just did, as if he were a man of constant sorrow. In fact, Russell—clad in his pistachio green, or orange plaid, or lip-blotting pink/red booty-shaking suit, and backed by a core of ticking, riffing sidemen, the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, and the Shiny Soul Sisters—leads one of the finest party bands around and, when called for, a heckuva crowd rousing conga line.

Celebrating the idiosyncratic genius of Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, 1917.

In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.

One month after Hurricane Harvey, Episcopal Priest Bertie Pearson visited Aransas Pass, Texas, to document the disaster. He found a city in ruins, as if it “had been lifted up and shaken, sending homes, boats, and trees flying in all directions.”

A kind of connective tissue linked my country’s most African city with an African moment that seemed stunningly American. The pallbearers danced, the band played, the mourners walked and swayed alongside while men and women pressed yet more naira bills on the sweat of our bodies—a symbol of respect and goodwill.

It was around this time that my father and his friends started a gang. They were all blanquitos from Condado: Yasser Benítez, Claudio LaRocca, Tommy Del Valle, and Juanma Thon. On the night their gang became official, they downed a bottle of Bacardi, then smashed it into pieces and used a shard to cut their arms. Then they rubbed their wounds together, so the blood passed from arm to arm.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

Collectively, the students’ work forms a nuanced, intimate portrait of communities as they struggle to survive. The completed videos are presented to local residents—there have been screenings in municipal buildings, town commons, baseball fields, churches—and hundreds of people attend. Feedback is near universal: In listening to the stories of their fellow residents, audience members have gained a deeper understanding of the impact of political, social, and cultural issues on their family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members.

Editor's Note: We are saddened to learn of the death of rock & roll legend Tom Petty on Monday, October 2, 2017. He was sixty-six. Revisit Holly George-Warren’s interview with Petty from our Fourth Annual Southern Music issue in 2000.

Since his 1976 debut, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, there have been ten mega-selling Heartbreakers albums, two triple-platinum solo releases, a six-CD box-set retrospective, and the soundtrack to an Ed Burns film. In the 1980s Petty played in the Traveling Wilburys, a young’un among legends Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison, and the Heartbreakers themselves have collaborated with Dylan and Johnny Cash, among other luminaries. Through it all, Petty’s roots have continually poked through his earthy pop-rock, most obviously on 1985’s Southern Accents, with its elegiac title track and anthemic “Rebels.” 

 

In Fair Bluff Evan Simko-Bednarski explores a North Carolina town “in danger of simply fading away,” struggling to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The flood and its destruction come after the one-two punch of the tobacco and textile industries crumbling in the 1990s. As one resident put it, “The town was dying. The hurricane just sped us up by ten or fifteen years.”

Sketches of Tennessee.

From the time I was about ten years old, my mother and I put in our time by visiting with Irma for an hour or two every day. We’d bring her the Enquirer and Star and try to cheer her up by pointing out the most salacious stories and the home remedies for arthritis. Sometimes she’d enlist me to rub her back, and I’d perch monkeylike on the back of the couch, kneading her knots as she growled, “I could hug yer neck fer that.”

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Nothing is as powerful as the extraordinary jolt of a teenager’s first love. It’s like seeing the world after a double-cataract surgery. Life is suddenly exquisite. Each leaf becomes the bearer of unbearable beauty. Romeo and Juliet were so deliriously happy that they embraced murder and suicide as an ideal solution. I didn’t go that far, but I fell deeply and totally in love with Kim.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: To introduce our first story for The By and By, a writing-and-audio narrative around the new book The Blood of Emmett Till, we asked its author, Timothy B. Tyson, to reflect on the overwhelming response to the book since its release, why the story of Emmett Till continues to resonate so profoundly.

In That Land of Perfect Day is the culmination of Brandon Thibodeaux’s eight-year long residency in the towns of the northern Mississippi Delta, including the United States’ oldest completely African-American municipality, Mound Bayou.