A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. I heard voices down the hall and followed them into the recording room, where I found Soul Council producer Kash talking with Tia Watlington, Jamla’s director of product management, and… by Dasan Ahanu | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. I first heard Wesley Johnson’s name in 2008 while speaking with Carlotta Fleming (née Samuels) about her vocal group, Odyssey 5. After recording their lone LP, First Time Around, for… by Jon Kirby | Nov, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.  I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start… by Tiana Clark | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. Around the close of the 1950s, if you wanted to hear the beginnings of the funk music that James Brown would soon introduce to the world, you wouldn’t find much… by Sarah Bryan | Nov, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue. It rises from dust, rakes in the populace, feeds them fried Twinkies, fried trees if they could put them on a stick and powder them in sugar. Bodies bunch up: the perfumed, the balmy, the whole… by C. L. White | Nov, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. Perverse? Yes. Blasphemous? Maybe. But not irreconcilable. To contemplate the meaning of Jodeci is to grasp at the intersection of religion and excess, of devotion and abandon, of agape and eros—a… by Lauren Du Graf | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. Funk can be a sense of place, transmigratory memories filtered through the nose. For George Clinton, the smell of pig shit crosses state lines. “I remember feeding them pigs. I… by Dave Tompkins | Nov, 2018

Track 22 – “Somebody Else’s World” by Sun Ra & His Arkestra FEAT. June Tyson  Sun Ra—master jazz pianist, composer, visionary, and astral traveler—is why many jazz listeners entered the Space Age before there was a Space Age. And June Tyson gives vibrational… by Harmony Holiday | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from our North Carolina Music Issue. “Reina de mis . . . Reina de mis . . .” And it struck me suddenly, as I stared down at my notebook at my messy handwriting, how without… by Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas | Nov, 2018

Notes on the songs from our 20th Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring North Carolina. The profiles, eulogies, and essays herein boast of remarkable achievements of North Carolina’s musicians across eras and genres: from unassailable legends (High Point’s John Coltrane, Tryon’s… by Oxford American | Nov, 2018

February 07, 2017

Think of these women, coming out of the South and up to Milwaukee, arriving finally in tiny, all-white Grafton by either streetcar or automobile and feeling their way in a studio for the first time. As they fought the forces of shell-shocked alienation, disorientation, and possibly stage fright, the musical conversations between these two gifted artists created other worlds for them to fleetingly inhabit. Their duet yielded a recorded history of blueswomen’s subversive interstitial lives forged outside of both the jail cell and the sphere of domestic abuse, conditions which hovered close to each of them. 

February 10, 2017

Around two thousand years ago a woman died in Greek-speaking Asia Minor, near the ancient city of Aydin, in what is now Turkey. Her name was Euterpe, after the muse of music. Her husband or son, Seikilos—his relationship to Euterpe depends on how you read a gap in the dedication line—commissioned a stele, a stone memorial, which bore the following words, etched in Greek: “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.” 

February 06, 2017

When Prince sang “Soft and Wet” from a 45 on my record player, the lyrics were hidden beneath the funky beat. My grandparents never knew what I was listening to. Prince and his doe eyes and big Afro and glistening lean body stared back at me from the pages of Right On! magazine. We lived far out into the woods, on a gravel road. My grandparents were farmers. Books and magazines and television told me that normal black girls did not live like this. But I did. Prince was the sex I knew nothing about. Prince sealed my fantasies about a larger world.

February 02, 2017

An essay from the Seventh Southern Music Issue, 2005. 

I walked back from the mall through a hammering twilight cloudburst clutching a wet paper bag. As laughing rednecks veered through puddles and blasted arcs of oily water over me, I thought grimly, “This better be worth it.” At home, I peeled the sodden paper off the plastic wrapper of Johnny Winter And: Live, peeled off my wet clothes, and collapsed naked on the bed to listen to the album.

February 02, 2017

When CeDell Davis was a boy, his mother told him he would go to hell if he kept on playing the guitar and messing around with the devil’s music. Davis was born in the Delta town of Helena in 1926, and there was no shortage of devilment. A bustling cotton port on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, Helena was like a Chicago or Memphis in miniature, home to scores of white saloons and black juke joints where bootleggers, gamblers, and hustlers gathered. It was violent and wild and music was everywhere, from the clubs downtown to the street corners by the docks. “Back then, Helena was wide open,” Davis told me. “If you had the money, you could get whatever you want.” 

March 30, 2017

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.

March 30, 2017

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.

March 30, 2017

Track 6 – “Segu Blue (Poyi)” by Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba.

“Segu Blue,” the title track from Ngoni Ba’s debut album, is Kouyaté’s interpretation of an ancient and distinctly bluesy Bamana song, “Poyi,” and it offers a clear example of how easily he is able to interweave his inherited tradition with borrowings from American blues.

January 23, 2017

The Oxford American has been nominated for a 2017 National Magazine Award: Zandria F. Robinson’s essay “Listening for the Country” is a finalist in the Essays and Criticism category.

January 21, 2017

One of my tasks as curator of the Alan Lomax Archive is to manage its YouTube channel. Several years ago, I noticed a particular strain of commentary recurring on the five clips that compose the recorded output of an utterly obscure and equally affecting singer-guitarist named Belton Sutherland, whom Lomax met in rural Madison County, Mississippi, in 1978.