November 10, 2020

Originally published in our Georgia Music Issue

Grandmama’s stank was root and residue of black Southern poverty, and devalued black Southern labor, black Southern excellence, black Southern imagination, and black Southern woman magic. This was the stank from whence black Southern life, love, and labor came. I didn’t fully understand or feel inspired by Grandmama’s stank or freshness until I heard the albums ATLiens and Aquemini from those Georgia-based artists called OutKast.

July 02, 2014

Gospel belongs to God and the blues is the Devil’s business, and here the blues takes the form of Son Thomas, whose spare bottleneck slide strips the tradition down to its roots. Son’s been sculpting figures and heads and skulls from clay gathered in the nearby hills for just about as long as he’s been playing the blues, which is to say: all his life.

July 02, 2015

The first time I admitted that yes, I was related to Francis Scott Key, it came as a shock, even to me, because, of course, I was lying. While my other college friends experimented with drugs and God, I experimented with genealogy.

March 01, 2017

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.

September 03, 2019

A Points South essay from the Fall 2019 issue

This approach, of stitching different strands of colored yarn through canvas so many times that the individual strings join in a subtle and collective harmony, leads to an image made of rigorous yet soft details. Nothing is exact but everything is defined. The result is a portrait—Miller’s work is almost exclusively portraits—that from across a room is startlingly realistic and that up close, near the strands, can feel alive and uncomfortably intimate, like being so near someone’s personal affairs that fears and failures are sensed.

November 05, 2014

In the summer of 1976, Patsy Sims traveled to Mississippi to interview Preacher Edgar Ray Killen about his role—then only suspected—as the organizer of the killing party of three civil rights workers (Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman). She believed him to be a leader in the White Knights of Mississippi, an especially virulent chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. For the interview they sat alone in a motel room in Meridian, Mississippi, where she asked him, point blank, if he’d ever killed anyone.

November 10, 2020

Originally published in our 2011 Music Issue 

Now, I wonder, is the song about a smokestack, a place, a woman, or a state of mind? “Whoa oh tell me, baby / Where did ya stay last night?” The phrases seemed to collide, creating tension essential to the blues shaped around the timbre of Howlin’ Wolf’s voice, which perhaps echoed the familiar robust presence of a deacon I’d heard at church.

March 31, 2014

When I was six years old, I shot a man. People think I am joking when I say this, as I do occasionally, if prodded, in a group that wants to talk guns or hunting or the excesses of the rural South. It has been nearly twenty years since I discharged a firearm or spent any time in a deer stand or duck blind, yet I am considered an authority on such matters, since I live among people who are not.

September 21, 2014

James Seay explores the geography of Panola County, Mississppi, where his grandfather would often go hunting—a land known as the Tallahachie River bottomlands. Seay realizes in writing about this land that his family had hunted in the same lands where Faulkner mined "scenes and features" for his famed Yoknapatawpha.

December 14, 2016

The most familiar Mississippi blues story starts in the Delta, where African-rooted field hollers evolved into haunted guitar masterpieces that traveled to Chicago and became the electric core of rock & roll. But there are lots of other stories, and this one is blue in another way. It is about the songs of the lowdown characters who ruled the lumber and levee camps, the honky-tonks and jukes, from the Gulf Coast to Memphis. And about the dozens, which has carried their tradition into the twenty-first century.