Originally published in our Tennessee Music Issue  There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip,… by Amanda Petrusich | Nov, 2020

Playlists curated by your favorite musicians and writers. by Brittany Howard, Kiese Laymon, Rosanne Cash, Kelsey Waldon, & others | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Music Issue’s Icons Section Beyond my eye, beyond the death and decay of matters left behind and unsettled, the music ringing up above my head told a thousand stories of bounty and belonging, and it glimmered… by Danielle A. Jackson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our 2007 Music Issue  In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most… by Sam Stephenson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our North Carolina Music Issue.  I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where… by Tiana Clark | Nov, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue The first songs that I listened to by Talibah Safiya had this soft, sweet, plaintive quality. There is something else underneath if you listen a bit closer: a little loneliness. The knowledge… by Jamey Hatley | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Greatest Hits Music Issue How does the South inform my music? How do I describe the sound that your bare feet make when they pat the cool, packed red dust under them? How do I describe… by Brittany Howard | Oct, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Food Issue. Quiet as it is kept, and widely as it has become forgotten, those who do the cooking and the farming know that those who only eat what is cooked for them and served… by Alice Randall | Mar, 2021

The Oxford American announces transitions on the leadership team

The Oxford American is thrilled to share news of several transitions at the organization. In January, the OA’s headquarters relocated from downtown Little Rock to the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and the OA’s Executive Editor, Dr. Sara A. Lewis, has been promoted to Executive Director. 

A conversation with Kelsey Waldon

Though Waldon probably wasn’t thinking of a year like 2020 when she wrote those lyrics, “growing pains” works well to describe the turmoil, social movement, and collective grief that has defined the start of the decade.

 A Letter from the Editor, Food Issue.

Quiet as it is kept, and widely as it has become forgotten, those who do the cooking and the farming know that those who only eat what is cooked for them and served to them never eat as well, measured by flavor on the tongue or justice in the world, as those who sample straight from the pot with a clean tasting spoon.

Originally published in our Tennessee Music Issue 

There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip, and begins shaking the other in the air. She hollers obscenities at the men until “they finally turned and disappeared quietly into the darkness.” This is the sort of tale that stinks of apocrypha, but is nonetheless a useful encapsulation of Smith’s particular prowess: shouting darkness into darkness.

Originally published in our 2007 Music Issue 

In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Charlie Daniels was, in one very real sense, hippie to the core. The Charlie Daniels Band’s first hit was a novelty song called “Long Haired Country Boy,” the opening stanza of which went like this: “People say I’m no good and crazy as a loon / ’Cause I get stoned in the morning / And get drunk in the afternoon.”

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

To say they’re singing doesn’t do justice to the noise they’re making; they sound like pilgrims in distress. Ely, a former coal miner, sounds like he’s hollering from the bottom of a cave.

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

I first met Skip James at Dick Waterman’s apartment in Cambridge in the summer of 1965. I sought him out because, quite simply, his music had overwhelmed me: the blues that he had recorded for Paramount Records in 1931 on piano and guitar, four of whose sides had been reissued on collectors’ labels in the early ’60s, had struck me as unfathomably strange, beautiful, and profound.

 

Originally published in our North Carolina Music Issue. 

I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where she started, imagining her daddy playing jazz standards on the piano, her mama cooking something good and greasy in the cramped kitchen with siblings zooming around. I envisioned myself, like Alice Walker looking for Zora Neale Hurston’s unmarked grave, shouting Nina in the derelict home, hoping somehow she would appear, gloriously phantasmagoric, and answer all of my incessant probing questions.

A poem from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Driving by kudzu, under oblong leaves / of live oaks as their roots knuckle up, / past the trawlers, who dredge pretty pink shrimp / from the belly of the coral-lipped sea, / war’s on, whether we say yes to it or no.

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

A better South, the Up South, insists that Black artistry and industry be recognized for their excellence, and that the measure of Black art be located in the pleasure of Black audience.

Nobody knew this better than LaVern Baker and no place provided a more significant Black audience than the Up South metropolis that was the Motor City

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

The first songs that I listened to by Talibah Safiya had this soft, sweet, plaintive quality. There is something else underneath if you listen a bit closer: a little loneliness. The knowledge that this sweetness is fleeting. Even though these first songs that I listened to maybe didn’t sound like the blues (one streaming platform calls the tunes Millennial Jazz), the blues was certainly riding under the skirt of that sweetness.