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 Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough… by Dave Tompkins | Nov, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.  Outside of his studies, Ron joined, and eventually presided over, the A&T karate club, and still made time to stay sharp on his saxophone. “People talk about born geniuses, but I… by Jon Kirby | Nov, 2019

A liner note essay from our South Carolina Music Issue We all know that Southern music needs to be heard and celebrated. However, visibility (exposure) cannot be pitted against our chance at a healthy life. The Oxford American’s ask of… by Anjali of Diaspoura | 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 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

April 05, 2016
Los Angeles. Four weeks into book tour. I’ve hit the wall, lads. Eleven straight hours of sleep and eighty-two ounces of caffeine and a B12 shot from an alleged pharmacy and I’m still exhausted. Still madly editing the short story manuscript until a ninety-minute car ride to my event, followed by an early morning flight to Salt Lake. I’m still traumatized by those hookers banging on my door at 3 a.m. in San Francisco two nights ago. My belief is that the guy who showed up at my hotel door with the live goldfish sent them. Maybe it was some kind of code. You let the guy put the goldfish in your room means send hookers at 3 a.m.
November 21, 2017

There are no great books about the Everly Brothers. No classic documentary films. Despite their influence on American pop music, which would be difficult to overstate, or the great, gaping beauty and sadness of their music, we are left with no lasting monuments to their catalog beyond the catalog itself. That, and—along with other personal tributes—this sad, ugly, perfect collage by Ray Johnson, who finished the piece by scratching large Xs across its surface, some weeks before filing it away in a box, folding over a thousand dollars in cash into the pocket of his windbreaker, and diving off a bridge that January night.

June 26, 2016

Walking through the sliding glass doors of the Peabody Hotel, across plush carpets under high industrial chandeliers, the first person I saw was a guy in a t-shirt and kilt. Not a plaid kilt, but a leather kilt—more like a skirt that a Roman soldier might wear. The man had a name badge around his neck with ribbons hanging from it and it turned out he was one of the conference organizers. Welcome to SSAWG, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group—weird farmers of the South.

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. 

June 01, 2013

“At first, I couldn’t come in a place like this,” Helen Summerville told me one recent afternoon as she forked into a mound of cornbread dressing and giblet gravy at Kairos Kafe on the south side of Birmingham, Alabama. “And then, for a while, I wouldn’t come in,” she said. “None of that matters now.” Prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Summerville, who is black, would not have been served in most white-owned dining rooms in Birmingham. Back then, Ollie’s Bar-B-Q—which was open from 1926 through 2001 and claimed three locations in this neighborhood, including the one now occupied by Kairos—was among the staunchest defenders of the Jim Crow laws and practices that dictated separate eating facilities for whites and blacks.

March 30, 2016

The urge to unload some lead into a hatchback or water heater is hard to deny. 

June 16, 2017

“I didn’t do any research,” Luther Dickinson said with a grin as he opened the door to his room at the Washington Square Park Hotel. Dickinson was in New York for a show that evening at Rockwood Music Hall, and he had agreed to talk with me about a question I’d become obsessed with: Did blues slide guitar evolve from the Hawaiian steel guitar or from the African instrument usually claimed as its ancestor?

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 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

Rapsody now dons the mantle for a long tradition of black women, particularly those from the South, forcing Americans to look in the mirror of our professed ideals and to face the ills that haunt us. She carries the torch the outspoken, Tryon-born Nina Simone held high in the heat of the last century’s civil rights movement, before she fled to Europe for respite and asylum. She embodies the quiet fire and sensuality of the diminutive Roberta Flack, born in the Asheville-area town of Black Mountain, whose blend of torch ballads, folk, soul, gospel, and disco transformed what could be decidedly black and land in the genre of “pop music” as the civil rights fight gave way in the latter part of the century to the cultural appropriation that integration wrought.

March 30, 2016

There is a name buried deep inside the treasure troves of long-dormant record labels, a name that is whispered among soul music’s true believers: O. V. Wright. He sang like God was sitting on his shoulder, urging him to bear witness to the pain that comes with hardship.