A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.
Growing up, Taj encountered a music that sounded like it was “disappearing.” “It was black music, but it was also country music. It turned out to be this fingerpicking that gave me a feeling of being connected to an older style of music that I assumed was African, though I didn’t know.” I said that might be the truest definition of the Piedmont blues I’d ever heard. “It was that little . . . somethin’-somethin’,” Taj said. “I didn’t have no ‘ethnomusicological’ term for it. My name for it was stumblepicking.” Stumblepicking? “Meaning,” he said, “you’re kinda stumbling over the notes to make them. That chord of Etta Baker’s on ‘Railroad Bill,’ it was like an E7 going into an F but it doesn’t stay there. It moves. It jars you. I found something close to it by accident once, and I could probably spend my whole life trying to find it again.”
A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue
Like many other locals, I had never valued the glades. I had never learned to see past the scraggly trees and the rocky fields. A chance Google search one day told me about the wildflowers, these endemic species that carpet the barrens and are found nowhere else in the world. I started hiking the Flat Rock State Natural Area. I dove into deed research, seeking to know more about the people who used to carve a living out of the limestone.
A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue
In 2007, the fossil remains of a severely disabled prehistoric man were uncovered in what is now Vietnam. The skeleton revealed the fused vertebrae and weak bones characteristic of a congenital disease called Klippel-Feil syndrome. The man was a quadriplegic, unable to feed himself or keep himself clean, and yet he survived to adulthood—during the Stone Age, mind you—because others in his community took care of him.
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 rigorous yet soft details. Nothing is exact but everything is defined. The result is a portrait—Miller’s work is almost exclusively portraits—that from across a room is startlingly realistic and that up close, near the strands, can feel alive and uncomfortably intimate, like being so near someone’s personal affairs that fears and failures are sensed.
"Since daybreak, I had been wandering around Cadillac Ranch, an enormous outdoor sculpture made from ten classic Cadillacs planted hood-first in the middle of a wheat field in Amarillo, Texas, abutted by a cluster of RV parks and motels. Erected in 1974 by the art collective known as Ant Farm, the “Stonehenge of the Panhandle” has become one of the most beloved attractions along Route 66. Part of the Ranch’s appeal comes from its conspicuous absence of velvet ropes, viewing hours, and annoying wall texts."
Reverend King and Elvis and Mr. Crump are just our famous ghosts, the public phantoms we share. Like everyone else, Memphians have their own private ghosts. Mine is tall and skinny and bald and wears black glasses—the same ones that are back in style.
We sat cross-legged on the cement floor of a warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward, not far from the train tracks. In the center was a small wooden house with singing pipes built into its walls. This was Chateau Poulet, a musical shanty about to perform for all of us.