A poem from the Summer 2019 issue. Two decades later, I read they named themselvesfor Emmett Till. The idea of the name was basically that a 14-year-old boy should be swimming in the river, not dying in it.But they spelled his name wrong.  by Sandra Beasley | Jun, 2019

A feature from the Spring 2019 issue.  Hancock’s art, which includes paintings, fabricated toys, a theatrical performance, and a graphic novel, defies categorization and pulses with an almost religious intensity. Much of his work has followed the denizens of his alternate… by Trenton Doyle Hancock and Maurice Carlos Ruffin | Mar, 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

A featured short story from the Spring 2019 issue. I understood that he had a crush on me, because there is no service that deserves a greater-than-one-hundred-percent gratuity, but the money seemed harmless when it came out of his wallet,… by Kevin Wilson | Mar, 2019

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.  In the Tampa exurbs, splashed across the side of a half-occupied strip mall, is a vast mural depicting the Victorian art critic-cum-philosopher-cum-political economist-cum-painter-cum-social reformer John Ruskin. He gazes out at an expanse of… by Matthew Sherrill | Jun, 2019

A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue I hesitated at the sight of the banner so close to my home and was suddenly wary. Weary. I saw the flag and without thinking thought it code: Patriot. MAGA. Make… by Karen Good Marable | Mar, 2019

An Omnivore essay from the Spring 2019 issue.  Due to his health, Leon Redbone can no longer be interviewed. In a way, he’s become a version of the old-time musicians he so admired, about whom little is known: You can… by Megan Pugh | Mar, 2019

November 12, 2018

An essay supplement to our North Carolina Music Issue.

It’s easy to become bored with common things—a four-lane highway, or a daily schedule at the nursing home, or a type of bird or music. But maybe these days we make too much of what awes us or infuriates us, and too little of the regular life in the middle. What’s common only became common, after all, because it adapted and learned to fit in. A cliché was once original. Country music was once meaningful. Walking was once easy. A common robin once saved Jesus.

November 20, 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 birth to Sun Ra’s visions. 

November 20, 2018

Track 21 – “Me Oh My” by The Honeycutters

If I’d been asked, I might’ve said I was held hostage, and truthfully I kind of was. Platt sang and her voice sank its claws into me and I didn’t move. One song bled into the next and I sat there until she was finished. I would’ve sat there for days if she’d kept singing. When the show was over, I pulled out what little money was in my wallet and shoved those crumpled bills in a jar by the stage for the only album the Honeycutters had at the time, a record called Irene. I played that record on a loop for months. 

November 20, 2018

Track 20 – “Mill Mother’s Lament” by Ella May Wiggins; Performed by Shannon Whitworth

Ella had grown up in the Smoky Mountains, first on farms and then in lumber camps, where she and her mother took in laundry while singing old mountain ballads. According to accounts, Ella’s singing voice was deep and seasoned with pain, and her lyrics reflected the plainspoken style of her speech. 

November 20, 2018

Track 15 – “Holy Ghost, Unchain My Name” by Elizabeth Cotten

Mentor to Alice Gerrard, beacon to all of us North Carolina folkie wannabes, revered by those of us with any musical knowledge, and—music’s highest compliment—sung by many of us who don’t know how we know the words. This Chapel Hill woman is the very heart of what we call Piedmont blues. 

November 20, 2018

Track 11 – “You Don’t Come See Me Anymore” by Malcolm Holcombe

This is the second time I’ve heard him play in the past few months and it’s always the same: nobody knows who Malcolm Holcombe is, except those who do. And those who know really know. You listen to him and you become evangelical about his music, this scarecrow of a man folded over his Martin guitar. 

November 20, 2018

Track 5 – “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” by Ruby Johnson

Then there’s the stripe of love-sickness where you’re not even sure it’s hurting. The pain often masquerades as energy, even optimism, yet there is always, in Johnson’s phrasing—in the way she hesitates against the beat—the hint of denial and delusion, and the suggestion, in those seconds where her voice rises and cracks, of trouble ahead. It might let you sleep, but it will be with you first thing, and stay with you all day. 

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. 

November 20, 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 Nina Simone, Chapel Hill’s James Taylor) to contemporary masters (Snow Hill’s Rapsody, Jacksonville’s Ryan Adams, Raleigh’s 9th Wonder) to the seen-afresh (Dunn’s Link Wray, Kannapolis’s George Clinton, Winston-Salem’s dB’s, Charlotte’s Jodeci)—and, of course, the often-overlooked and in-between (Winston-Salem’s Wesley Johnson, Morganton’s Etta Baker, Chapel Hill’s Liquid Pleasure, Kinston’s Nathaniel Jones, Black Mountain’s period of hosting John Cage). 

November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

When it snows, the entire post 
shuts down like there is no war 
going on. Perhaps the higher-ups 
decide to let those left behind, 
for the moment, savor the chance 
to shape snowmen with their children 
or lie beside another warm body. 
Probably it is lack of preparedness.