A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue I have wanted to visit this house for years. Like many North Carolina kids, I grew up with the broad strokes of Thomas Wolfe’s story, the prolific, small-town genius who became… by Stephanie Powell Watts | Jun, 2019

Thomas Jefferson, Pharrell, and more notes on the state of Virginia  Now, when strangers ask me where I’m from, I say, “Virginia Beach. We gave the world Pharrell. You’re welcome.” Pharrell was the black cosmopolitan force that proved my home… by Mychal Denzel Smith | Jun, 2019

Zora Neale Hurston’s lessons in writing a love story At one point, sitting in the Beinecke Library, I closed my eyes and let my fingers fall on random sentences of Hurston’s masterwork. Word for word, sentence for sentence, Their Eyes… by Regina Porter | Jun, 2019

A poem from the Summer 2019 issue. Here it is iftar and I forgot to eat I’m banqueting on a spice that’s not on this table by Mohja Kahf | Jun, 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

 A Letter from the Editor, Summer 2019. At the Oxford American, we receive many pitches for stories in the category of “pilgrimages,” or “literary road trips,” or “retracing X’s steps.” I understand the appeal: the traveler can see with her… by Eliza Borné | Jun, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue As an evangelist, I have showed “Miracles” to many people by lying about what it’s actually about. Generally, I describe it as a sort of joke, a curiosity. I don’t tell… by Jacob Rosenberg | Jun, 2019

An installment in John T. Edge’s Points South column, Local Fare. Costumes transform their bar into a theatrical production, Feizal said to me that day in the jungle room. “You watch someone put on a Big Bird suit and then… by John T. Edge | Jun, 2019

December 11, 2017

Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note.  

For some twenty-five years I’ve maintained an obsession with four specific seconds in all the history of rock & roll. Four seconds of a single guitar ripping a hot lick, the opening salvo to a rock & roll song from 1969, a song I don’t particularly love (it’s not my typical go-to music), played by a band I almost never listen to (no disrespect intended). But these scant seconds thrill my ear, lift my spirit, and send me back to my own guitar with renewed enthusiasm, and they capture the singular virtuosity of Steve Ferguson—a great musician from Louisville you’ve likely never heard, which I consider truly unfortunate, because boy is he ever worth the hearing.

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 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 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 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 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 21, 2017

Notes on the songs from our 19th Southern Music Issue CD featuring Kentucky.

This faculty, to be attuned to one’s surroundings and the ways in which they’re unique, to be rooted in the local, to be of a certain place—no matter if one permanently leaves it, like Richard Hell, or stays forever, like Rachel Grimes—is an elemental theme running through the Oxford American’s 19th Southern Music Issue, devoted to Kentucky. It’s manifest in every one of the songs and stories gathered here: the Commonwealth produces a particularly grounded cast of artists, writers, and musicians.

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 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.

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