Notes on the songs from our 21st Southern Music Issue Sampler featuring South Carolina. It is fitting that this Southern Music Issue (the Oxford American’s twenty-first) devoted to South Carolina should come in 2019, as the nation moves to better… by Oxford American | Nov, 2019

A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough… by Dave Tompkins | Nov, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.  Outside of his studies, Ron joined, and eventually presided over, the A&T karate club, and still made time to stay sharp on his saxophone. “People talk about born geniuses, but I… by Jon Kirby | Nov, 2019

A liner note essay from our South Carolina Music Issue We all know that Southern music needs to be heard and celebrated. However, visibility (exposure) cannot be pitted against our chance at a healthy life. The Oxford American’s ask of… by Anjali of Diaspoura | Nov, 2019

A graphic story from the Fall 2019 issue.  Like many cities, Little Rock is a place of ghosts. The dead hover and haunt, though their stories often go untold. This story is a work of fiction inspired by some of… by Van Jensen & Nate Powell | Sep, 2019

A feature short story from the Fall 2019 issue. The godmother is like an ancestor who never really left. Someone who’s here even when they’re not. The godmother is what happens when somebody asks your name and you suddenly can’t… by Selena Anderson | Sep, 2019

A new episode of Points South is now playing!Subscribe today and never miss an episode. Episode Four features the OA editors discussing the upcoming South Carolina Music Issue and sharing their favorite stories and behind-the-scenes moments. Plus: A preview of the issue’s… by Sara A. Lewis | Nov, 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

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. 

On the afternoon of April 9, 1987, a man stood outside the United States penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. He had been convicted of one count of willful failure to file an income tax return and sentenced to a year in prison. His orders from the court were to surrender himself to the institution before April 10. While an accomplice rolled videotape, the man outside the prison, who was both a literalist and something of a showman, held up the day’s newspaper and announced: “I surrender to the institution!”