A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue. Pearl taught me to be a loving teller of the truth. This is the basis for my work as a writer and as a human being. If you are a person… by Tayari Jones | Mar, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue. I found myself in Jones’s writing. Kentucky. Black. Rural. Woman. I was especially taken with how she drew characters from the oral storytelling tradition and then broadened that form into her… by Crystal Wilkinson | Mar, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue. In chronicling the civil rights movement, one inevitably develops an interest in how racial crimes are remembered in the community where they happened—in the way they gradually turn into folklore—and in Memphis,… by Benjamin Hedin | Mar, 2018

A feature short story from the 100th issue. When the real estate agent first drove us up the gravel driveway, I felt I’d been to this place before. I wasn’t sure at first, for I’d first been there at night.… by Randall Kenan | Mar, 2018

A Points South story from the 100th issue. In public, she wore head wraps so tight they gave her headaches. Nevertheless, at some point, the hissing caused people to stop what they were doing and squint all around, in search… by Tania James | Mar, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue.  “For more than three decades this maddening story of Evers’s murder and the question of Beckwith’s guilt or innocence has been told again and again, in conflicting voices and varying contexts, with… by Alan Huffman | Mar, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue. If the earth is wet enough and acidic enough, the first thing you’ll find when you start digging up a grave is a coffin-shaped halo in the ground. That’s the mark left… by Christopher Cox | Mar, 2018

A Points South story from the 100th issue. First off, let me tell you that if you hold a rat snake in your lap and cup your hand around him and let him move along through your cupped hand you… by Clyde Edgerton | Mar, 2018

A feature essay from the 100th issue. From across the broad and whitecapped Indian River, the Kennedy Space Center looks like two tiny Lego sets in the distant vegetation. The palms here are windswept, the oaks are scrubby. Pelicans bob… by Lauren Groff | Mar, 2018

 A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2018. This issue is packed with other luminaries: Nikki Giovanni, Lolis Eric Elie, and Wendell Berry express the tenderness of our closest relationships. Randall Kenan and Thomas Pierce, contemporary masters of Southern fiction, offer… by Eliza Borné | Mar, 2018

Poems from the Spring 2018 issue. One white anemone,the year’s first flower,saves the world. by Wendell Berry | Mar, 2018

November 21, 2017

Take Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill (can I call you Sturgill?) is a Kentucky rascal, born in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Jackson—population around twenty-one hundred. He comes from a family of coal miners. He was in the Navy. He worked on the railroad and played music and sang, and his wife reassured him he was good and should keep doing it. Sturgill Simpson’s first album, High Top Mountain, was self-funded, self-released in 2013, and the first track is “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean.” In 2017, Sturgill’s first major-label album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, won the Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Album of the Year while being largely ignored by country radio and the country music awards. 

November 21, 2017

It was 1995, the year Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” was released, the end of my eighth-grade year, in rural Kentucky where homophobia was—and continues to be—rampant. My secret boyfriend and I—the one I had kissed in darkened classrooms after Science Olympiad practice, his blond scruff chafing my freshly shaved cheeks—had broken up. We were bullied and threatened in the hallways at school, and gossiped about when we passed notes between classes and had lunch together. I ache for those two boys now, for the normal acne-scarred romance they were never allowed to have.

November 21, 2017

A Freakwater song works something like this. Irwin starts singing over a bass and guitar. Bean comes in after a few bars, accompanied by violin or pedal steel. They trade lines back and forth, then converge into stacked harmonies in which Irwin’s low earthy timbre finds a counterpoint in Bean’s airy alto. It’s those two perfectly paired voices that keep you from drowning in what the songs are actually about.

November 09, 2017

A Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note. 

Raised in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, Whitley grew up admiring country greats Lefty Frizzell and George Jones, whose vocal styles he imitated as a young musician. Whitley’s uncanny talent for mimicry is something of a legend around Nashville—he could, upon request, conjure with eerie precision the voices of Lester Flatt, Carter Stanley, and numerous others. He was, apparently, a man inhabited by an indwelling of spirits.

November 21, 2017

In 1892, Mildred wrote an article titled “Negro Music” for Music, a Chicago journal. She used the pseudonym Johann Tonsor because she was worried that her ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously if readers knew she was a woman. Two decades before the appearance of jazz, she claimed that the African-American sound would be the basis of American music in the next century. Mildred, who died in 1916, had no idea that one of her own African-American-influenced tunes would become an enduring part of popular culture. 

November 21, 2017

In 1966, Loretta Lynn was anything but little. She had already released eight solo studio albums. Just one year later she would be the first woman in country music to achieve a certified gold album for Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind). But a “little girl singer” was not considered a true solo act. She was there to support and round out the male stars of a show. The “girl singer” moniker was used by her male colleagues and by emcees as a way to separate and diminish the achievements of women in the industry. 

October 24, 2017

In 2017, we’re featuring the music of Kentucky, highlighting some of the Commonwealth’s most enduring legends and local favorites while celebrating overlooked and lesser known musicians. With contributions from Sturgill Simpson, James Lindsey, Bill Monroe, Julia Perry, King Kong, and Loretta Lynn, this 27-track compilation includes songs from 1927 to the present.

May 06, 2014

Glenn Hall’s DarkWater captures the changing biological and environmental landscape of the Ohio River Valley—and what may be a dying way of life.

September 05, 2017

We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.

My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck. 

June 28, 2017

Announcing the Oxford American’s 19th Music Issue.

In 2017, we are returning to the state series. And we are thrilled to announce that it’s your turn, Kentucky.