We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace. My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large.… by David Ramsey | Sep, 2017

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

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 Danielle Chapman | Sep, 2017

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… by Kevin A. González | Sep, 2017

Traces of Cormac McCarthy’s Knoxville.  McCarthy’s books came to me as transformative things so often do: several-times borrowed. It was during my junior year of college, my first semester back home in Colorado after a failed track scholarship out of state.… by Noah Gallagher Shannon | Sep, 2017

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… by Chris Offutt | Sep, 2017

A poem from the Fall 2017 issue. Always walked this close between the rows.Always smoked so many seeds.You will find yourself dragging              a live rabbit by one foot, the other kicking. by Jenny Browne | Sep, 2017

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… by Osayi Endolyn | Sep, 2017

A poem from the Fall 2017 issue. As a boy I pleaded with the river to teach me its long and winding vowels. In exchange I taught it swear words, how to play games. by Jacob Shores-Argüello | Sep, 2017

 A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2017. It is an ongoing project: reckoning with our past, making the South a better place to live and dream and learn and work. by Eliza Borné | Sep, 2017

Hunting season swept through my hometown with the crisp northern winds that sent leaves and trash dancing down King Street, near the Old Spanish Trail. In late fall, the town’s annual hunters’ gathering—Buck Fever—packed the county fairgrounds with guns and… by Gabriel Daniel Solis | Sep, 2017

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… by Holly George-Warren | Jul, 2000

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!”

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.

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.

A story from Winter 2013, the Tennessee Music Issue.

She is a music student, slender, youthful, with the concentrated face of an alto in the chorus or a back-row violinist, frowning at her strings. Tonight, wearing black (de rigueur for her profession), she sits in a chair to the left of and slightly behind the pianist. She is invisible.

 

When I was a kid in 1970s Memphis, limousines were a rare sight, though two would occasionally appear in traffic. From the backseat of our family station wagon, we’d scream for Mother to pull up closer. We’d know whose it was by the license plate. Elvis Presley’s was not customized. Isaac Hayes’s read MOSES, referring to his nickname, Black Moses. He was leading people to the Promised Land.

Right after my ninth birthday, Daddy had a tantrum that made him punch a hole in the wall, his right hand break, and his secretary walk out. That made him punch the wall with his left hand and break that one too, and that was how I ended up Daddy's secretary summer before fourth grade. We worked from home, in an office that Little Steve the Child Molester built in exchange for services rendered. The office window looked out into dry yellow field, and on the far side of the field was our cow pond and Daddy's burn pile.

One Sunday night a month, around 8:30 P.M., or whenever the long, narrow, art-bedecked space of Canvas Lounge finally fills with revelers, the strains of “Let There Be Praise,” sung by Sandi Patty, the ’80s- and early ’90s-ruling inspirational star with two first names, come through the P.A. With the final perky, theatrical note still ringing in the air, the bar’s proprietor, playing the part of Pastor Peter in plaid polyester shorts hiked up to his ribcage and anchored there by a wide white belt, grabs a microphone from the deejay booth and introduces the Dickson Chicks: Marlene, Carlene, and Darlene.

Dom Flemons performing "Can You Blame the Colored Man" by Memphis string band leader Gus Cannon.

In Gus Cannon's music I heard minstrelsy, but I could also hear a novel, legitimate black art form developed from minstrel roots. And not only that.