Originally published in our Tennessee Music Issue  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,… by Amanda Petrusich | Nov, 2020

Playlists curated by your favorite musicians and writers. by Brittany Howard, Kiese Laymon, Rosanne Cash, Kelsey Waldon, & others | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Music Issue’s Icons Section Beyond my eye, beyond the death and decay of matters left behind and unsettled, the music ringing up above my head told a thousand stories of bounty and belonging, and it glimmered… by Danielle A. Jackson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our 2007 Music Issue  In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most… by Sam Stephenson | Nov, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue Charlie Daniels was, in one very real sense, hippie to the core. The Charlie Daniels Band’s first hit was a novelty song called “Long Haired Country Boy,” the opening stanza of which… by Elizabeth Nelson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our 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 where… by Tiana Clark | Nov, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue The first songs that I listened to by Talibah Safiya had this soft, sweet, plaintive quality. There is something else underneath if you listen a bit closer: a little loneliness. The knowledge… by Jamey Hatley | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Greatest Hits Music Issue How does the South inform my music? How do I describe the sound that your bare feet make when they pat the cool, packed red dust under them? How do I describe… by Brittany Howard | Oct, 2020

August 26, 2013

The Editors are spiking most of my copy now, unread. One has described it as “hopeless crap.” My master’s degree means nothing to this pack of half-wits at the Blade. My job is hanging by a thread. But Frankie, an assistant city editor, is not such a bad boss and it was she who, out of the blue, gave me this choice assignment. I was startled. A last chance to make good?

October 26, 2020

An introduction to the Greatest Hits Music Issue

How does the South inform my music? How do I describe the sound that your bare feet make when they pat the cool, packed red dust under them? How do I describe the color of the sky when you know there’s going to be a tornado? How do I tell you about my grandmother’s smile when she’s singing old church songs? How can I even tell you the way it feels to hear the cicadas sing in the humid evenings on my great-grandmother’s porch, or the first breeze of fall after an oppressive, jungle-like summer where you worked all week and never got ahead?

 

December 01, 2008

An essay published in the Oxford American’s Winter 2008 Southern Music issue.

On Elton and Betty White.

March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

My family has laid claim to a variety of nationalities and regional affiliations, yet there are still questions I reflect on from time to time regarding my own claim to my current home. Am I a Southerner, and do I have a right to call myself a Southerner? Will others recognize me as a Southerner, despite my lack of accent and because of my Asian face? And what does it mean to take on this identity—what does it mean for me to claim Dixie?

March 17, 2020

A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue

When we weren’t whizzing through intersections, I was trying to read road signs, thinking that their letters, dimly lit by our headlights, would give me some kind of orientation on this ground, relative to other places I knew. The signs were not helpful; this was ground you had to feel to know. I don’t think I could find it again.

August 03, 2020

A Points South essay from the Place Issue

Stop ignoring your body while you have one, you tell yourself. Stop succumbing to despairing visions of genocide. Pause the video of George Floyd’s strangled voice calling out for his mother, begging for air. Take the air left in your chest, run. In the midst of a disease that continues snatching Black breath, run.

October 27, 2020

An excerpt from Looking to Get Lost by Peter Guralnick 

Simply put, this is a book about creativity. Like so many other things in my life, this is a realization I have come to only after the fact. 

June 12, 2018

A Points South story from the Summer 2018 issue

One summer during an electrical storm, Mama Rubie turned off the power in her house and we huddled on the stairs until the weather calmed. One day this will be yours, she said, as we sat on the staircase. I imagine your father will give this house to you when I’m gone. I nodded although I didn’t understand. 
March 19, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue

Listen to the first two notes Raphael plays on his solo on Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” and it’s impossible not to hear Mickey singing the word “Georgia” through the instrument, the second syllable bending upward, just the way Willie sings it. Raphael’s harmonica grounds the song in its call-and-response gospel impulse: one voice means little without the other’s ghostly affirmation.

June 11, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue

Much of what they’d tell me next was legend—tall tales, rumors, exaggerations. Perry Martin adopted an orphan girl he found on the riverside, raised her up as his own, paid her way through college. He killed nine people, or eleven, or a dozen. One of his alleged victims was his own stepson: the younger man had rocked a boat they shared too violently, which angered Martin. Apparently, despite his life along the river, this outlaw did not know how to swim.