A feature essay from the North Carolina Music issue. I don’t know if Kenny Mann has ever been in therapy, but I do know that he is exceedingly honest and possesses an uncommon sense of self-awareness. He willingly raises and… by Abigail Covington | Mar, 2019

 A Letter from the Editor, Spring 2019. Though I don’t believe new parents must be homebound, another truth of my current season is that my movements are mostly limited to house and office and places in between. So more than… by Eliza Borné | Mar, 2019

A feature story from the North Carolina Music Issue.  The Wrays had an old-world, Keatsian melancholy. It bloomed in the kitchen of their 6th Street home in Portsmouth, Virginia, where, from about 1951 to ’55, they recorded songs on a… by John O'Connor | Nov, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue. My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another in sunbursted bottoms there… by Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley | Nov, 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… by L. Lamar Wilson | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from our North Carolina Music Issue.  After twenty-four years of educational experimentation and financial struggle, Black Mountain College closed in 1956. Today it is remembered primarily for its tremendous impact on the visual arts. Among the… by John Thomason | Nov, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music issue. My hometown is just over an hour from Myrtle Beach, and so it was not unusual for people to make the pilgrimage to the Pad or the Spanish Galleon or… by Jill McCorkle | Nov, 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… by Wiley Cash | Nov, 2018

David Ramsey

David Ramsey is a contributing editor to the Oxford American. His work has been anthologized in Da Capo Best Music Writing, Best Food Writing, and the Norton Field Guide to Writing. He lives in DeLand, Florida.

November 21, 2017
The Old Regular Baptists and the joyful sound.

The Old Regulars sing loud. “You can’t whisper it, it needs to have zip,” one told me. Another: “If you can’t shout down here, what are you gonna do when you get to Heaven?” There is an orderliness to their singing, a formal quality—it has the shape and thrust of liturgy. But it is also indisputably wild.

September 05, 2017

We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.

My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck. 

February 02, 2017

When CeDell Davis was a boy, his mother told him he would go to hell if he kept on playing the guitar and messing around with the devil’s music. Davis was born in the Delta town of Helena in 1926, and there was no shortage of devilment. A bustling cotton port on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, Helena was like a Chicago or Memphis in miniature, home to scores of white saloons and black juke joints where bootleggers, gamblers, and hustlers gathered. It was violent and wild and music was everywhere, from the clubs downtown to the street corners by the docks. “Back then, Helena was wide open,” Davis told me. “If you had the money, you could get whatever you want.” 

December 11, 2015

Little Richard, now eighty-two years old, has reportedly been living the last several years in a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel in downtown Nashville (the Hilton will neither confirm nor deny that they have a guest named Mr. Penniman). I knew someone who knew someone who had his cell phone number, and in June, I cold-called him.

July 01, 2015

From the archive.

Billy Mitchell, the most knowledgeable and masterful Pac-Man player ever to drop a quarter in a machine, is a hard man to find. When I asked one of his best friends, Walter Day, the best way to get in touch with him, Day told me, “First I spend an hour praying to God, then I visit a psychic, then I place a classified ad, then I hire a plane to carry a banner that says CALL ME BILLY! and make it fly all over South Florida. Because he might be anywhere.”

May 25, 2010

“You just have to see” is always good advice in New Orleans, which is how I ended up at the 2007 premiere of Trixie and the Treetrunks, a ten-part puppet telenovela in which Trixie and her pal Marsha try to make sense of a post-apocalyptic world by starting a band to send secret messages from the center of the earth.

June 04, 2014

Though hot chicken is not peculiar to Nashville, the city is uniquely obsessed with the dish.

March 19, 2014

For some of my students, the questions Where are you from?  and Do you listen to Lil Wayne?  were close to interchangeable. Their shared currency—as much as neighborhoods or food or slang or trauma—was the stoned musings of Weezy F. Baby.