A feature from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues The place I was raised in and where occurred the events that most shaped and damaged me as a human being was called Silver Hills. It’s a “knob,”… by John Jeremiah Sullivan | Dec, 2016

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.  Although some Food Network stooge would surely find the One Stop eventually, for the moment it lacked any officious culinary sanction, which seemed important. Joann was cooking for her neighbors, sawdust clinging… by John O’Connor | Jun, 2017

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.  These days—as the weather everywhere grows steadily stranger, storms stronger, seas higher—I worry about the Outer Banks, surrounded by water and just barely above the waves. What does it mean to be… by Molly McArdle | Jun, 2017

 A Letter from the Editor, Summer 2017. For the second year in a row, our summer issue contains a special section of Southern Journeys. In typical Oxford American fashion, these five journeys aren’t your average trip itineraries or travel guides, though we… by Eliza Borné | Jun, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.  The flight attendant stopped and pointed to the safety card’s picture of a woman cradling a child in her arms. “Do you understand? You will hold her like that, alright?”… by Tift Merritt | Jun, 2017

A classic John T. Edge column from the OA archive.  One of the only places the Allman Brothers really felt at home was at Mama Louise Hudson’s soul food restaurant in Macon, Georgia. by John T. Edge | Jun, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. In the forest, we are enveloped by a magical darkness. We are afraid and fearless at the same time: fighting for our existence, fighting to be seen as human.… by Danielle Rene Mayes | Jun, 2017

In many ways, I blame rock & roll for what happened. I discovered this unholy music in boyhood, when my Uncle Mike died an untimely death at age twenty-eight. My grandmother gave all his 8-tracks to me, music I’d never… by Harrison Scott Key | Jun, 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

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.”

Floyd Council’s heart gave out on May 9, 1976: bad cholesterol and, in the end, kidney failure. He was sixty-four. He’s buried outside my hometown of Sanford, North Carolina. If you take Lower Moncure Road east beyond the 421 overpass, you’ll see a few identical grey trailers, a low brick ranch-style house, and a tobacco field, and then the road curves left and the trees close in again. A church used to stand here, and in the long grass between the shoulder and the pines some gravestones are peeking up through the green. Not much remains of the cemetery, and nothing of the chapel, White Oak AME Zion, abandoned for years and finally torn down in 2014. Broke and a widower, Council was buried here without a marker. And now that the grass has grown long and trees have sprouted up, the blues guitarist’s grave is lost.

A Points South essay from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues. 

The spirit of Southern outsider music has taken partial possession of many artists through the years—Charlie Feathers comes to mind, as do Link Wray, Hasil Adkins, and the train-obsessed 1920s banjo player Willard Hodgins. But as a fully realized manifestation—eccentricity expressed as bizarre and beautiful words and sounds—that spirit was at least thrice incarnate in the twentieth century: in the persons of Tennessee ballad singer Hamper McBee, Georgia banjo player Abner Jay, and Guitar Shorty of Elm City, North Carolina.

The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded by Molly McCullly Brown is out today from Persea Books. 

Please join us in congratulating our colleague Rebecca Gayle Howell, whose new collection American Purgatory is a powerful book offering a hope in community that shares struggle and defiance.

In “A Town Under Trial,” from our Spring 2017 issue, reporter Nick Tabor relates how an unsolved 1994 double murder continues to haunt a small town in southwest Kentucky. To capture Oak Grove and its trailer parks and “commercial strips of liquor stores, topless bars, and cash-advance shops” familiar to military towns across the country, we enlisted Nashville-based photographer Tamara Reynolds, who was already familiar with the area. Her images convey the tenuous, transitory nature of habitation and commerce in Oak Grove and the unavoidable influence of the military-industrial complex on life there.

In the early 1990s, New Life Fitness & Massage kept its lights on twenty hours a day, closing at five every morning and reopening at nine. Everyone in Oak Grove knew it was a brothel. Fort Campbell, one of the nation’s largest Army posts, sits on top of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and New Life stood right outside its northern gates next to Interstate 24. Many of its clients were Screaming Eagles: paratroopers from the famous 101st Airborne Division. Most of the others were truckers off the highway and locals of all stripes; some say judges and other dignitaries would come up from Nashville, an hour down the highway, to be ushered in and out covertly.

Travels with Robert Palmer: photographs from the Delta. 

What became clear as we began our journey together, searching for the roots of the blues, was that the music is part of the Delta landscape and the people we encountered were carrying on an important tradition that spanned many decades. My goal was to visually depict their lives and their love of the musical tradition in which they lived.

Ma Rene, my great-grandmother on Mama’s side, was a no-nonsense blueswoman. Wide-hipped, bowlegged, and solidly built, she stood barely five feet tall and had a wicked tongue. Her barbecue ribs—and the secret sauce she slow-simmered to go with them—made you want to hurt somebody.

Photographs from the Summer 2014 issue. 

Drawing from the famous nineteenth century portraits made by Doris Ulmann, Lisa Elmaleh’s project American Folk documents the contemporary development of traditional arts throughout the Appalachian Mountains.

Editor’s Letter, Spring 2017

Our charge is to share important, moving stories with you, our readers, from a region that is still oft-overlooked and maligned. That a scrappy nonprofit magazine is thriving after twenty-five years is cause for celebration.

In my youth, I’d often join my grandmother for dinner at the iconic white-tablecloth steak house she owned in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans. She dominated the dining room from table 83, a four-top with the best sight lines of the entire restaurant. On the wall behind her permanent seat, over her left shoulder, hung a grand painting: a Mardi Gras tableau of a half dozen white-robed men carrying torches, leading a parade down a spectator-thronged French Quarter street.