Notes on the songs from our 21st Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring South Carolina. It is fitting that this Southern Music Issue (the Oxford American’s twenty-first) devoted to South Carolina should come in 2019, as the nation moves to better… by Oxford American | Nov, 2019

A graphic story from the Fall 2019 issue.  Like many cities, Little Rock is a place of ghosts. The dead hover and haunt, though their stories often go untold. This story is a work of fiction inspired by some of… by Van Jensen & Nate Powell | Sep, 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… by William Browning | Sep, 2019

A selection of short stories in the Fall 2019 issue He had witnessed her appearance a few minutes earlier. Instantly he had known, from the way her pieces sifted together, that she was a ghost, though he had never seen… by Kevin Brockmeier | Sep, 2019

The pieces of Johnny Greene, an Omnivore essay from the Fall 2019 issue. Johnny used place as a recurrent theme, along with displacement. As a journalist, he was fascinated by communities, by groups of people and the environments which shaped… by James K. Williamson | Sep, 2019

A feature short story from the Fall 2019 issue. The godmother is like an ancestor who never really left. Someone who’s here even when they’re not. The godmother is what happens when somebody asks your name and you suddenly can’t… by Selena Anderson | Sep, 2019

A new episode of Points South is now playing!Subscribe today and never miss an episode. Episode Four features the OA editors discussing the upcoming South Carolina Music Issue and sharing their favorite stories and behind-the-scenes moments. Plus: A preview of the issue’s… by Sara A. Lewis | Nov, 2019

We would like to hear from you.  The magazine will begin publishing letters to the editor in the fall issue and going forward. If you would like to respond to a story published in the magazine, we welcome your letter. by Oxford American | Jun, 2019

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.

November 21, 2017

Track 22 – “Wondrous Love” by Pine Mountain Girls’ Octet &

Track 23 – “Pretty Polly” by Locust Grove Octet

The Louisville trio Maiden Radio—Cheyenne Marie Mize, Julia Purcell, and Joan Shelley—took the reins on gathering a contemporary octet of Kentucky women, inviting Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs of the Local Honeys, Heather Summers and Anna Krippenstapel of the Other Years, and Sarah Wood to join them. They recorded their version at Louisville’s Locust Grove in August 2017. The text—past the first two verses—is a composite of their own. 

November 21, 2017

Track 25 – “Eights” by Rachel Grimes

In her career as a pianist, arranger, founding member of the indie chamber-rock group Rachel’s, and internationally acclaimed composer, Grimes has graced metropolitan stages around the globe. The long reach of her creativity is, in some important regard, the result of her upbringing in Louisville and her exposure to the collaborative and experimental music scene that has been vibrant there since the eighties. She draws her water in rural Kentucky, though, and has returned to the Commonwealth’s Bluegrass region continuously throughout her life as though guided by a divining rod.

November 21, 2017

Track 11 – “I’m Going to Organize, Baby Mine” by Sarah Ogan Gunning

In the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, unionism—or its lack—was a creed people held and defended as fiercely as those of the region’s charismatic religions. And the music Sarah Ogan Gunning and her siblings produced between the 1930s and 1960s was as steeped in unionism and communism as it was in the traditional songs, ballads, and hymns of Appalachia.

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

Track 10 – “Camp Nelson Blues” by Booker Orchestra

The music made by the Booker Orchestra of Camp Nelson, Kentucky, has been almost completely obscured by time. In that distinction, it’s representative of many of the contributions made, to the Commonwealth and to the country alike, by rural black Kentuckians. Jessamine County’s Camp Nelson was a major site for recruitment and training of African-American soldiers in the Civil War, and more than ten thousand United States Colored Troops and their families cycled through during and after the war.

November 15, 2017

A Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note. 

Jim Ford’s lone album is a twenty-eight minute, mystical celebration of the kid that got away—a hazy, bourbon-and-cocaine-fueled-funk-&-soul-honky-tonk cousin to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

November 21, 2017

Track 8 – “Me Hungry” by King Kong

As an indie-besotted college student when Me Hungry was released, I took to the album immediately. Rarely in life have I felt so alone. Music snob friends turned up their noses at the lighthearted funk and ridiculous story; critics were largely indifferent, occasionally hostile. At the time, I ascribed the chilly reception to polite society’s general wariness of humor in music. Maybe! 

November 21, 2017

Track 5 – “Rainbows” by James Lindsey FEAT. Cicily Bullard

When Lindsey raps “I’m talking rainbows,” I think he must be talking black joy. I think he must be talking the kind of rainbow you see in the shimmer-swirl of color that floats over the curve of a soap bubble. How alike they are, soap bubbles and black joy: Beautiful. Carefree. Tenuous.

November 20, 2018

Track 1 – “Lights in the Valley” (Live) by Joe & Odell Thompson 

They were part of a dying tradition: musicians from the community playing functional music for social dances, not to make a living but because that’s simply what they did. They were also among the last living links to a vast black string band tradition that used to be spread all over the South and other parts of the U.S. but had slowly disappeared until very few were left. And they were swallowed up by the wider societal notion that fiddle and banjo music was strictly a white preserve. 

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