A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue Much of what they’d tell me next was legend—tall tales, rumors, exaggerations. Perry Martin adopted an orphan girl he found on the riverside, raised her up as his own, paid her… by Boyce Upholt | Jun, 2019

A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue I have wanted to visit this house for years. Like many North Carolina kids, I grew up with the broad strokes of Thomas Wolfe’s story, the prolific, small-town genius who became… by Stephanie Powell Watts | Jun, 2019

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.  He began the letter by asking Larry to cremate him and scatter his ashes next to his second wife’s ashes at Johnson Beach in Perdido Key, Florida, “approximately 75 yards from end… by Britta Lokting | Jun, 2019

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.  Lenny did all he could to hang around it over the next couple of years, cleaning lines, fetching balls, brushing the clay to maintain a smooth surface. Eventually, after cocktail hour ended… by Shaun Assael | Jun, 2019

Mike Frolich’s artistic legacy in the Saturn Bar One of my many justifications for keeping the devil was Frolich’s claim that his paintings were created in part for the children of the Ninth Ward, more of whom run through our… by Anne Gisleson | Jun, 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

 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 featured short story from the Summer 2019 issue. Mother had no shortage of repulsive qualities, but the most disturbing was her laugh. Otherworldly. Piercing. A stranger would fall on the ice or a double-crossing cop would get his comeuppance… by Graham Gordy | Jun, 2019

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

I first heard Wesley Johnson’s name in 2008 while speaking with Carlotta Fleming (née Samuels) about her vocal group, Odyssey 5. After recording their lone LP, First Time Around, for Brunswick Records in 1974, she’d spent a few years in Italy singing in a group called Wess Machine, the namesake disco ensemble of a man named Wesley Johnson—a Winston-Salem native who’d been moving and shaking to some degree in Italy. I didn’t get tied up in the few details Fleming had to offer, so I was floored a decade later to encounter a box of Wesley Johnson LPs—all Italian pressings—in a Jamaican record shop. These beautiful, gatefold affairs revealed that Johnson was not some draft dodger or bail hopper, but a prolific expat whose overseas success story remained mostly unknown back home. In Winston-Salem, his sister Linda told me the best person to speak to about Wesley would be his best friend, Carl Ray Johnson, whom I knew as the drummer and primary songwriter for the Eliminators, another important local soul combo from the seventies. Luckily, I was already in touch with Carl.

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

I yanked down a shoebox of old letters, and a tiny folded sheet of paper floated out: a hand-drawn cartoon card that Scott had given me the year I played with Frightened Rabbit in Austin, Texas on my birthday. I kneeled down and doubled over, suddenly blinded with tears. This casual display of unprompted thoughtfulness for another human being had made the magnitude of loss apparent.

In an attempt to “fuse New Orleans and Miami as metro jungles,” Erin Krall’s Tropiques Plastiques showcases the real and synthetic vegetation of those two cities, forming an unconventional portrait of the urban American tropics.

As I sing my first note from the stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of Louisiana’s 400 festivals, I watch as people are drawn to the music. They come from every walk of life; tall, short, thin, round, young, old, hippie, yuppie, folkie, and foreign. Everyone is different, yet they’re all here, in Louisiana, to enjoy our little piece of heaven on Earth. The smell of roux and fried seafood intertwine with the dancers, sweat and dust. Cypress crafts pepper the backdrop of multi-colored tents. In this moment, there are no worries—just complete happiness. Food for my soul…my plate is full.
Yvette Landry, Author, Educator, Ambassador, GRAMMY-Nominated Songbird, and Breaux Bridge Native

A video supplement to “Folk Witness” by John T. Edge, published in the Fall 2018 issue.

“Joints and shacks offer witness to the environments where design and operation incongruities . . . often bespeak honesty. The creative responses of that grocery store manager and that breakfast joint operator confirm that humans are at the helm in such spaces, singular and complicated souls capable of responding to circumstance and necessity with brilliance.”

—John T. Edge, “Folk Witness”

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

It rises from dust, rakes in the populace, 
feeds them fried Twinkies, fried trees if they could 
put them on a stick and powder them in sugar. 
Bodies bunch up: the perfumed, the balmy, 
the whole way to watch the potter at his wheel, 
the carver and his knife, the knee-high rope 
around an old America. 

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Around the close of the 1950s, if you wanted to hear the beginnings of the funk music that James Brown would soon introduce to the world, you wouldn’t find much of it on his records. Brown’s late- ’50s recordings with the Famous Flames, like his plaintive “Try Me” and the shatteringly sweet “I Want You So Bad,” are indisputably cool, and they spill over with the vocal histrionics that would characterize his performance style for decades to come. But the overall aesthetic of his music from that era is still redolent of doo-wop and ducktails. He’d only just begun to take some sandpaper to the smooth sheen of ’50s pop music. 

No, if you wanted to hear funk music before 1960, your best bet might be the Maola Ice Cream talent show in Kinston, North Carolina. 

An excerpt from Mesha Maren's new novel Sugar Run.

The woman leans forward, elbows on the table and black hair slicked back under a cap. She’s been there for three days, winning more than half the hands she plays, and her presence carves a space in the room disproportionate to her size.

North Carolinians of all walks of life—on tobacco farms, in textile mills and furniture factories, on street corners and at house parties in the fast-growing cities, on menhaden work boats, and in the churches of blacks, whites, and Native Americans—expressed their deepest joys, sorrows, faith, and dreams through their music.

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

I heard voices down the hall and followed them into the recording room, where I found Soul Council producer Kash talking with Tia Watlington, Jamla’s director of product management, and songstress Heather Victoria about Heather’s new single “Japan.” I knew that this was just a taste of what any given day is like at Bright Lady—young artists honing their craft, label mates planning the next release, or your favorite artist in town looking for that signature sound for their new project. Anything is possible at the business and recording home of Grammy-winning producer and Jamla label head 9th Wonder. 

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Funk can be a sense of place, transmigratory memories filtered through the nose. For George Clinton, the smell of pig shit crosses state lines. “I remember feeding them pigs. I was knee deep in pig shit. Cosmic pig slop. That’s why you make the same face when something smells. Funk tickles the same muscle. That Southern vapor. Up in there with the biscuits and bacon. Your mother cooking with that iron stove, especially on Sunday morning. That was that same good smell that make you frown like you hear that funky blues.” 

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.