December 01, 2013
There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip, and begins shaking the other in the air. She hollers obscenities at the men until “they finally turned and disappeared quietly into the darkness.” This is the sort of tale that stinks of apocrypha, but is nonetheless a useful encapsulation of Smith’s particular prowess: shouting darkness into darkness.
February 19, 2015

A poem from the Texas Music Issue

Townes Van Zandt kissed me on the cheek
after I guarded his guitar.
He had stayed in the bathroom a very long time.
I asked if he needed food 
and he said, I never eat.

February 04, 2016

In 1913, the murder of Little Mary Phagan rocked the people of Atlanta, Georgia, setting in motion a series of events that involved a botched and terribly obfuscated trial; a tinder box of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and “white rights”; and another murder. “Fiddlin’ John” Carson set it all to music.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Before she was Catwoman on the television show Batman in the 1960s, before she spoke out against the Vietnam War and was exiled for it, before her redemption and the sold-out shows with a multicultural international repertoire at Café Carlyle in New York City in the 1990s, she was simply Eartha Mae Keith, a little girl who never knew her daddy and whose mama had given her away before she was school-aged because she couldn’t afford to keep her.

March 16, 2016

In the summer of 2014, nearly a decade after I buried my ties to home, and discontent with my restlessness, I set out to make a life in Austin. I carried with me one simple question: was Texas still home to my heart or just the site of dead memories?

February 16, 2016

One summer evening in 1981, I knocked on the door of a modest house on a street improbably named the Plaza in Athens, Georgia, looking for a man who, I had been told, knew some old-time work songs.

October 05, 2016

This weekend is the annual tomato festival at the Bells Bend Neighborhood Farm, and the farmers lay out an all-you-can-eat buffet of the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes grown there: Cherokee greens, Cherokee purples, zebras, Japanese black trifeles, Ozark pinks, Pruden’s purples, and best of all, sungolds, which are small and firm tomatoes that taste warm and almost salty, like they were plucked from the vine on a hot afternoon just moments before they made it to this table. And amid all this sweet bounty: a square dance.

November 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Myrtle Beach has always capitalized on tourists’ desire to put a soundtrack to their vacations. Long before the days of the megachurch-style country music theaters, like the Carolina Opry and the Alabama Theatre, which would later dominate the north end of town, Myrtle Beach was a regular stop for the working musicians who toured the Southeast.

December 11, 2015

Little Richard, now eighty-two years old, has reportedly been living the last several years in a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel in downtown Nashville (the Hilton will neither confirm nor deny that they have a guest named Mr. Penniman). I knew someone who knew someone who had his cell phone number, and in June, I cold-called him.

July 19, 2016

Poetry from the Summer 2016 issue. 

We are at the edge of the madness,
sitting and swelling warm under the skin.
So you think that shuffling and press
of bodies against the fence will end?