94 Blues Wolman TajMahalTaj Mahal, 1974. Photo by Baron Wolman / Iconic Images

18th Annual
Southern Music Issue & CD
featuring THE BLUES

The Oxford American’s 2016 Southern Music Issue will present articles, profiles, and essays
about the South’s most storied and influential musical heritage: the blues.

As always, the issue will come packaged with a CD of songs, with liner notes in the magazine.

On newsstands December 12, 2016 — order your copy here

 

“I didn’t do any research,” Luther Dickinson said with a grin as he opened the door to his room at the Washington Square Park Hotel. Dickinson was in New York for a show that evening at Rockwood Music Hall, and he had agreed to talk with me about a question I’d become obsessed with: Did blues slide guitar evolve from the Hawaiian steel guitar or from the African instrument usually claimed as its ancestor?

In Silent Ballad: Time Sings in the Cumberland Plateau, Rachel Boillot explores Appalachia, photographing East Tennessee’s musical heritage along the mountain roads between Signal Mountain and Cumberland Gap.  

A new song and a Mother’s Day prayer from Mississippi gospel trio the Como Mamas. 

Mom was there all the time!
When you were whining,
When you were upset.
At night, when you couldn’t sleep,
She’d come in and pray with you.
She’d come in and maybe read you a word.
She’d come in and sing you a song.

A poem from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues. 

You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
This little car is going nowhere, honey, without your touch.

A conversation with the Georgia-bred, North Carolina-based singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell.

“It’s hard to say what a song is after a while, it’s been through so many lives and incarnations. Is it a gospel song? Is it a nursery rhyme? I don’t know. Alan Lomax talked about that, about how songs had these lives over many generations. There’s a lot of stuff that’s both and neither at the same time. I think this might be one of those songs.”

Notes on the songs from our 18th Southern Music Issue CD: Visions of the Blues.

As we conceived of this issue, we sought a model for our task. (Metaphor, after all, is a hallmark of great blues.) The natural impulse behind this work, music writing—blues music writing, no less—points to the image of the lantern: illuminator, bringing light to darkened places. But a more appropriate one here is the prism: refractor, dispersing pure light to reveal the color spectrum.

Track 17 – “Miss You” by Alabama Shakes

This song is a new model—built on a standard frame, maybe, but showing an understanding of how the blues legacy both enables the expression of chaotic emotions and streamlines them, tuning them up for maximum performance within a structure that demands precision as much as openness.

Track 11 – “John Henry” by John Lee Hooker

For three minutes, it’s as if Hooker has just woken up from a dream and is trying to remember it. The song as such is nothing but fragments, fragments of fragments.