January 30, 2015

When I first opened the cassette there were no titles on the insert or cassette itself, just stick figures drawn in assorted contortions and obscene poses. I put the cassette in my tape deck and pressed play. A low slow voice growled, “Oh My God!” to a caveman-like stomp of drums and bass that almost blew up my speakers. A high-pitched, hard wavering guitar weaved a line of notes as I strained to hear what else the voice was saying; something like, “What do you know about reality? I AM REALITY! What do you know about death? I AM DEATH!” This song, the first track from the album Hairway To Steven, went on for twelve minutes. I was nineteen years old, and that was the first Butthole Surfers I ever bought.

April 05, 2016
I’m talking about Doug Sahm . . . the walking-est, talking-est, song-singing-est, guitar-playing-est personification of Texas music to ever pop a top off a Lone Star beer. 
April 26, 2017

Michael Shewmaker’s exceptional debut hinges on the need not to resolve form but to further open it, a puzzle, a question, as though the very act of questioning keeps him in balance.

December 18, 2015

A heartbreaking deep soul classic by Atlanta’s Lee Moses almost became the third ’60s-era song called “Bad Girl” to grace an OA music issue CD.

May 04, 2016

An interview with Matt Wolfe, whose essay “Ride Along with the Cow Police” appears in the Oxford American’s Spring 2016 issue.

“I spoke with more than one rancher who was genuinely perplexed that cattle rustling wasn’t still a hanging crime. This level of enmity seemed pretty typical.”

July 08, 2016

A conversation with Manuel Gonzales.

“Magical and fantastical is what I grew up on—that and horror and the science-fictional and the soap operatic worlds of comic books—and to me it feels like a natural mode of telling a story. You learn about a character by watching him or her run the gauntlet of some horror show or run through some lengthy, fraught journey filled with monsters and magic and pitfalls.”

October 18, 2016

A conversation with Guy Clark biographer Tamara Saviano.

“Guy was telling me for at least a year and a half before he died that he would not be here when the book came out.”

February 26, 2015

On Texas, old newspapers, race music, and two black lives that shaped the history of civil rights

In 1891, C. N. Love noticed how much money other state’s newspapers were making on his labor and connections. He started the Navasota Echo, one of the first black papers in Texas, “the cheapest and best colored paper published west of the Mississippi,” he boasted, calling it a publication “devoted to the interests of the people in general and the negro in particular.”

October 21, 2016

A conversation with Ben Stroud.

“Lots of people don’t like the idea of white guilt, for a whole variety of reasons. But I think it’s useful, and important. The simple answer is that if you’re white and live in the South—or, more broadly, America—you are connected to these actions. They are part of what made the world we live in today—part of what built the various structures of privilege, etc. We live in a culture that loves to deny guilt. And in some cases, that’s very useful. Shame can be really inhibiting to living a fulfilled life, and it can be a tool of repression/oppression. But certain kinds of shame and guilt can be useful, are necessary, and I think the oft-derided white guilt can be one of these.”

February 22, 2018

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

Songs: Ohia is the name under which musician Jason Molina—Ohio-born and bred, with deep West Virginia roots—performed and released his first records. Didn’t It Rain was his sixth studio album but my first exposure to him. It’s an album that I folded into immediately, that buckled my blood. I’d never heard something that sounded exactly like how I felt.