An installment in John T. Edge's Points South column, Local Fare. When I began reading and thinking about Dixie Vodka, I didn’t want to gallop toward a conclusion. I aimed to plod, to listen, to map the paper trail of… by John T. Edge | Jun, 2018

A short story from the Fall 2018 issue. He saw no need to damn a place just on the face of it; he figured there must be a flower blooming somewhere in West Memphis, though he had seen no sign… by David Wesley Williams | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. Why was my great-great-grandfather always referred to as “Robert Singleton, the Civil War veteran who lost his leg at Murfreesboro, then went on to become Clerk of the County Court” rather than… by Danielle Chapman | Sep, 2018

 A Letter from the Editor, Fall 2018. I was struck by a phrase written by Jelani Cobb for the New Yorker, which characterized our former president as “a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives.” This… by Eliza Borné | Sep, 2018

A featured short story from the Fall 2018 issue. Our distant ancestor Harriett Moss made a living painting portraits of dead children. But before her career began in earnest, she sketched only cows. It was her husband, Thomas Moss, who… by Lee Conell | Sep, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue.  Pulled by the pale, stout horses, we listened as he told us the history of the paniolo culture in Hawaii. I sat on the wagon’s bench behind my father as he talked.… by Holly Haworth | Jun, 2018

A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue “I just have this fear every day that somewhere there’s another load going to the landfill of the only known copy of something that helped change American music,” Darden told me.… by Will Bostwick | Sep, 2018

A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue. I first devoured Robert Gipe’s books and plays because I wanted to understand Appalachia. I was searching for deeper insights than the victim-blaming bootstrap narrative espoused in J. D. Vance’s best-selling book,… by Beth Macy | Sep, 2018

Reading Florida.  You see one thing when you look at the state from a distance, but if you come closer, dig deeper, you always find something else. This probably has something to do with Disney World, but it also relates… by Sarah Viren | Jun, 2018

I used to imagine the Holy Ghost as a fog that slept in the rafters of our church. I thought our music, singing, and shouting woke the Spirit. When It looked down and saw us, It was reminded of how lonely It was, how much It loved the children of God. Like the wind, the Holy Ghost wasn’t visible, but we could still feel Its power. It gave those It touched the ability to speak in tongues, the word of God pouring out of their mouths in garbled consonants and rolling vowels. 

Devin Lunsford’s All the Place You’ve Got documents the changing landscape along Corridor X, a newly completed interstate project that connects Birmingham to Memphis through a once-remote part of northwest Alabama populated by desolate towns and shuttered coal mines.

Track 25 – “Eights” by Rachel Grimes

In her career as a pianist, arranger, founding member of the indie chamber-rock group Rachel’s, and internationally acclaimed composer, Grimes has graced metropolitan stages around the globe. The long reach of her creativity is, in some important regard, the result of her upbringing in Louisville and her exposure to the collaborative and experimental music scene that has been vibrant there since the eighties. She draws her water in rural Kentucky, though, and has returned to the Commonwealth’s Bluegrass region continuously throughout her life as though guided by a divining rod.

An interview with Les McCann from the Kentucky Music Issue. 

All through high school the band teacher and I were very good friends. He received tickets to all the bands and brought me to concerts. I was in perfect heaven. I never said no to anything. And my mother was a fake opera singer. She’d listen to the opera every Sunday while she cleaned house and wooooo, oh my God, it was great! Everybody was into something. Right across the street from our house was the Elk’s Club, so every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night you’d hear a beautiful organ trio playing. 

A Kentucky Music Issue web exclusive: J. D. Wilkes’s Jackson Purchase.

The richness of the Jackson Purchase has served so many artists and thinkers over the years, the least of which includes your author. From the kudzu-choked ghost tracks of the L&N railroad to the charcoal-sketch vistas of our silver winters, the Purchase continuously impresses upon us its mysticism, its regional transcendence. I set every song, story, and film I create somewhere within its fables. Here are a few of its surviving, gothic destinations.

Three poems from our Kentucky Music Issue. 

Until the nameless traveler learns in terror 
His lidless eyes are open targets— 
Where sudden night flings in her quiet spear. 

 

Bounding from one circle of attendees to another, dispensing heartfelt hugs and introducing himself and his Danish boyfriend to newcomers with the comportment of a Southern gentleman, was my friend Brandon Godman, a bearded, bearish hipster type whose jolly, grandfatherly laugh belied his twenty-nine years. He was the closest thing to a master of ceremonies, a thoroughly modern export of rural Kentucky who’d become a galvanizing presence in the Bay Area bluegrass scene.

Taken over the course of two consecutive summers, the photographs in Rosie Brock’s And Ever Shall Be explore the collision of economic depression and the familiar fantasy of the Southern county fair. A man in a Domino sugar t-shirt sits atop a white horse, a boy in a cowboy hat leans so close to the camera the rest of the world fades out of focus, and a woman, unsmiling, watches a carnival spectacle the viewer can’t see. Meanwhile the sun sets over empty train tracks and a carousel trailer, and the overall effect is at once hopeful and melancholic.

A few seconds in, there came this sound. It filled the song and then it filled the room I was listening in. What was that? Like a fiercely shaken box of tacks. Like wind rattling dry leaves on a tree. But not either of those. Comparisons couldn’t capture it.

Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive: a conversation with director Vic Rawlings.

“Lee Sexton is a living master with four tracks on Mountain Music of Kentucky, a beautiful Smithsonian Folkways record from 1960. It remains a favorite record of mine—has been since I first heard it in the mid-nineties. I went to a few places mentioned in the liner notes when I made my first trip to Eastern Kentucky in 2004. My first stop was Roscoe Holcomb’s grave; it turns out he and Lee are cousins. After that, hoping to find Lee, I asked where Linefork was, and I was directed to drive along a two-lane road. I expected to find a small town or a store somewhere along there and planned to ask again about Lee. There was no town center, not even a gas station, and I spent most of the day searching.” 

Notes on the songs from our 19th Southern Music Issue CD featuring Kentucky.

This faculty, to be attuned to one’s surroundings and the ways in which they’re unique, to be rooted in the local, to be of a certain place—no matter if one permanently leaves it, like Richard Hell, or stays forever, like Rachel Grimes—is an elemental theme running through the Oxford American’s 19th Southern Music Issue, devoted to Kentucky. It’s manifest in every one of the songs and stories gathered here: the Commonwealth produces a particularly grounded cast of artists, writers, and musicians.

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

Less than two months before C.D. Wright passed away, the Center for Documentary Studies had the honor of welcoming her as a featured panelist at their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and national documentary forum, where she gave a powerful reading from One With Others.