Tupelo, Mississippi, is an upbeat, happy city where people believe they can accomplish anything. Here, a young boy from the wrong side of the tracks with a $7.75 guitar grew up to be king. An unconquerable tribe called this place its homeland. A trail over 8,000 years in the making still beckons visitors to slow down and explore. In Tupelo, anything is possible.
In the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, unionism—or its lack—was a creed people held and defended as fiercely as those of the region’s charismatic religions. And the music Sarah Ogan Gunning and her siblings produced between the 1930s and 1960s was as steeped in unionism and communism as it was in the traditional songs, ballads, and hymns of Appalachia.
A Points South essay from the Kentucky Music Issue.
The last time I heard Jimmy Raney play was at Bellarmine College in Louisville. To know that a master like Raney had gone deaf was to know that a Rembrandt was burning. He played alone because he could no longer hear well enough to play with others.
Ethan Tate’s photographs of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, reflect a complicated homecoming; Tate lived in the community when he was young and wasn’t entirely happy to return as an adult. He took long drives through the Delta as a way of re-acclimating to the place.
There are no great books about the Everly Brothers. No classic documentary films. Despite their influence on American pop music, which would be difficult to overstate, or the great, gaping beauty and sadness of their music, we are left with no lasting monuments to their catalog beyond the catalog itself. That, and—along with other personal tributes—this sad, ugly, perfect collage by Ray Johnson, who finished the piece by scratching large Xs across its surface, some weeks before filing it away in a box, folding over a thousand dollars in cash into the pocket of his windbreaker, and diving off a bridge that January night.
When Lindsey raps “I’m talking rainbows,” I think he must be talking black joy. I think he must be talking the kind of rainbow you see in the shimmer-swirl of color that floats over the curve of a soap bubble. How alike they are, soap bubbles and black joy: Beautiful. Carefree. Tenuous.
The photographs in Meghan Kirkwood’s Four Blocks in Chalmette were taken at four intervals within a four-block area of Chalmette, Louisiana between 2008 and 2017. Located east of the lower Ninth Ward, Chalmette sustained heavy flood damage during Hurricane Katrina. The neighborhood Kirkwood photographed, dense with rental properties, has been particularly slow to recover.
As an indie-besotted college student when Me Hungry was released, I took to the album immediately. Rarely in life have I felt so alone. Music snob friends turned up their noses at the lighthearted funk and ridiculous story; critics were largely indifferent, occasionally hostile. At the time, I ascribed the chilly reception to polite society’s general wariness of humor in music. Maybe!
Mary Gauthier and the art of writing war.
She’s a queer Opry star and recovering heroin addict turned postwar Virgil. A surrogate of sorts for the new war narrative. “I have done this process on myself for twenty-odd years and ten records, so I know where we’re trying to get.” Mary’s cowriting with veterans isn’t about slogan or ritual.
Denis Johnson and revision.
A couple of years later, I told someone about this, that the hitchhiker in “Emergency” is a real guy with the same name, that I’d watched this remarkable video of Johnson reading the story, and she second-guessed the whole thing. What if, she wondered, the interruption, the anecdote, the letter that Johnson reads is just another version of the story? It all fits together that way, that years later the narrator would be a novelist, that the character he’d almost forgotten was real would walk up and say hello. It feels a little like a final revision.