November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Let me take you back to a time before algorithmic music recommendations (If you like this, you’ll definitely like this), to a time when you never rode in a friend’s car without flipping through their fat, floppy binders of CDs, heavy as an X-ray blanket in your lap, to see what they were digging. Let me take you back, in other words, to the mid-nineties.

September 09, 2016

From the archive, an appreciation of cookbook-memoirist Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.

Vertamae is the sort of person who, while struggling to find work in the broad creative world, came to know James Baldwin as “Jimmy,” played the part of Big Pearl in the infamous Broadway play Mandingo, catered a record-release party for David Bowie, danced and chanted with Sun Ra & his Solar-Myth Arkestra, and inspired her daughter, who was nine at the time, to publish a volume of poems with Doubleday.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough money for records,” he recalled. “Or I couldn’t find them. So I’d record songs on the radio off the reel-to-reel, and take the reel-to-reel to the party.” There’s a photograph of Jones deejaying the Charleston YMCA wearing pleated baggies and a fade, with a Michelob parked in front of his Akai séance machine.

September 21, 2016

An excerpt of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.

I grew up in the southwestern frontier near North Augusta, on a ragged, two-hundred-acre family farm where we raised our own beef, grew our own vegetables, and drew our water out of cool, sweet springs. From heaven—or from a high-flying hawk’s viewpoint—I imagine that the plowed fields, pastures, and humble houses looked like a hole punched into the expanse of green. That gap in the wildness was our Home Place.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

What I want is to love Southern rock without being implicated in the Old South politics. I want progress but I want it surgical. Take secession and Strom Thurmond, take Bob Jones and his university, take the racism and the guy wearing the sandwich board, all bad eye and venom, and leave me the Chattooga River, leave me my grandparents on the porch, leave me the fish fries and Ronnie Milsap and the old man at Open Arms Church who played the dobro so lovingly you swore he was cradling his child.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Lillie’s sound is not readily identifiable as black or white but seems a merger of the two as she effortlessly blends country and blues in a haunting song about family loss. Noticeably absent is the Gullah Geechee accent, and she finds little use for vibrato. Instead, a pure, unadorned, angelic quality characterizes her soprano. Such simplicity proves effective in conveying Lillie’s innermost thoughts—her pain.

March 31, 2017

He was a modernist scholar, one of the earliest, and for decades a leading translator of ancient Greek poetry; but he also wrote with authority on the social history of the pear, Mother Ann Lee and Shaker aesthetics, Dogon cosmogony, the anthropology of table manners, 2 Timothy and the Pauline doctrine, Louis Agassiz, Eudora Welty, geodesic domes, the paintings of Balthus, and the behavior of wasps—which he fed in his home from a saucer of sugar water. He himself subsisted on fried bologna sandwiches and Marlboros.

November 19, 2019

Notes on the songs from our 21st Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring South Carolina.

It is fitting that this Southern Music Issue (the Oxford American’s twenty-first) devoted to South Carolina should come in 2019, as the nation moves to better recognize the tragic anniversary of the first sale of enslaved Africans on American soil, in August of 1619. About forty percent of the enslaved people brought to America came through Charleston; today most African Americans have roots in the city (some estimates go as high as eighty percent). Or to put a finer point on it, as Joshunda Sanders writes in this issue, “No Black person has a family tree that has not been pruned by slavery.” Acknowledging, parsing, and reckoning with this history is the prominent theme of this South Carolina music issue—as is celebrating the immense wealth of cultural heritage that has sprung from this small, proud place.

October 21, 2013

A short story.

The entrance to the building is lined with prickly bushes. Ellie is there early. Not because she wants the job. It’s just that parking was easier to find than she expected. She could care less about this job. When people ask her what kind of job she wants, she usually says, a job where I can use my hands. “Your hands?” her mother often says. “But we all use our hands.” Her mother sells insurance policies and uses her hands every day. How else would she dial out?

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

I didn’t even know if I knew how to let go of the pain of my past. It has, after all, made me the woman I am.

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