November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

Rapsody now dons the mantle for a long tradition of black women, particularly those from the South, forcing Americans to look in the mirror of our professed ideals and to face the ills that haunt us. She carries the torch the outspoken, Tryon-born Nina Simone held high in the heat of the last century’s civil rights movement, before she fled to Europe for respite and asylum. She embodies the quiet fire and sensuality of the diminutive Roberta Flack, born in the Asheville-area town of Black Mountain, whose blend of torch ballads, folk, soul, gospel, and disco transformed what could be decidedly black and land in the genre of “pop music” as the civil rights fight gave way in the latter part of the century to the cultural appropriation that integration wrought.

November 19, 2019

A poem from the South Carolina Music Issue.

I slipped into a clumsy dress
I built out of magnolia 
leaves, strings and staples
so I could marry Thomas
in the backyard 
back when we adorned
our heads with imaginary
crowns and called each
other queens

April 05, 2016
He was a small man, 5'6" and about 160 pounds, a smoker in his mid-forties. His face was disfigured by a crushed nose that never properly healed. He had cut scars on his shoulder and right forearm. He was a Baptist and wore a size 7 shoe.
April 14, 2017

A poem from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues. 

You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
This little car is going nowhere, honey, without your touch.
November 21, 2017

A Freakwater song works something like this. Irwin starts singing over a bass and guitar. Bean comes in after a few bars, accompanied by violin or pedal steel. They trade lines back and forth, then converge into stacked harmonies in which Irwin’s low earthy timbre finds a counterpoint in Bean’s airy alto. It’s those two perfectly paired voices that keep you from drowning in what the songs are actually about.

November 20, 2018

A feature story from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

The Wrays had an old-world, Keatsian melancholy. It bloomed in the kitchen of their 6th Street home in Portsmouth, Virginia, where, from about 1951 to ’55, they recorded songs on a one-track, mostly originals written by Vernon. This was back when the music was fun, before it became a business. It’s the sort of thing that’s dashed off and then mislaid and vanishes somewhere. Sherry found the masters in a box of her dad’s stuff that, horrifyingly, was bound for the dump. She rescued them, and named the disc 6th Street Kitchen. The vibe is Elvis doing Dylan’s Great White Wonder: gushy, drunken ballads, some barely a minute long, and rapturous in the way that the smallest beginnings can express enormous feeling.

November 19, 2019

A poem from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Clara Smith, Blues woman. They share 
a room with no peephole, old gal, 

young gal, they laugh and tell the boys 
who want to stop by, they’s roommates. 

April 05, 2016
Canvassing Texas for undocumented songs and sounds, Owens stumbled across the big secret: field recording is holy work, eavesdropping on the unsyndicated histories of the world.
November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where 
family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust 
the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another 
in sunbursted bottoms there is nothing here but the bliss of this day 
& so I think on death hanging out over the Atlantic so many dead 

November 21, 2017

It was 1995, the year Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” was released, the end of my eighth-grade year, in rural Kentucky where homophobia was—and continues to be—rampant. My secret boyfriend and I—the one I had kissed in darkened classrooms after Science Olympiad practice, his blond scruff chafing my freshly shaved cheeks—had broken up. We were bullied and threatened in the hallways at school, and gossiped about when we passed notes between classes and had lunch together. I ache for those two boys now, for the normal acne-scarred romance they were never allowed to have.