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19th Annual
Southern Music Issue & CD
featuring KENTUCKY

From 2009 until 2015, our music issue featured a different Southern state every year (raise your hand if you’ve got them all: Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia).
Last year, we departed from the series to examine “Visions of the Blues.

In 2017, we are returning to the state series. And we are thrilled to share that it’s your turn, Kentucky.

The Commonwealth gave us musicians like Loretta Lynn and Nappy Roots, Richard Hell and Bill Monroe—just to name a very few—and beloved writers like Crystal Wilkinson, Ronni Lundy, Silas House, and our own poetry editor, Rebecca Gayle Howell. This is just a taste of Kentucky and a taste of what’s to come.

As always, the issue will come packaged with a CD (+ free download) of songs, with liner notes in the magazine.

On newsstands November 21, 2017 — Order your copy here.

The issue will mail to subscribers on November 7, 2017 — subscribe today.

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June 12, 2018

Brother Dynamite in reflection

Hounded throughout by the Man, busted, shot at, Big Man managed to stay out of the jackpot. It probably helped that he was a quiet cat who played things close. He’s like that nowadays, not particularly keen on self-promotion, almost to a fault. He can be leery, circumspect. Sharing just isn’t his thing, let’s put it that way. But probably it’s why he’s lasted so long.

June 12, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue. 

I am again driving through the moon-flecked summer night, the hot dead bugs against my windshield summer night, the benzene-sulfur-streaked chemical stacks streaming into the gleaming Gulf summer night. It is so damn hot down here, so sultry, but I don’t want to turn the air-conditioning on in my little red fuel-efficient rental vehicle; I want to breathe in the heat, bathe in the heat, dance with it! And I happen to find a watering hole where I can do just that, in the belly of the belly of the belly of the beast. The Neon Moon Saloon, a cement-floor biker bar in industrial Houston. There’s a lively game at the billiard table, rough red-faced men at the wooden bar, a glowing neon cabinet of booze. It is an end-of-the-world type of place, and this is the end of the world.

June 12, 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. I sat and listened as if cocooned in that place, that time, enveloped in those clouds of mist that we drifted into and out of, wrapped in one of the wool blankets that my father provided to the tour’s guests. When prompted with questions from the visitors, my father told about himself, his history as a jockey in Tennessee, and how he ended up in Hawaii to work with horses—the first time I learned those things about him. I wasn’t in his story. I tried to work myself into it, but I couldn’t. 

June 12, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue. 

Even though I knew it was only temporary, I found riding the Tornado a profoundly lonely experience. For many of those around me, the journey was more permanent, one after which they would emerge into a future of perpetual outsider status, in communities where they would likely be subject to wage theft, housing discrimination, dirty looks for speaking their own language, and racial profiling by police regardless of whether they were documented or not. If they weren’t, they could be uprooted again at a moment’s notice. 

June 12, 2018

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue. 

We are hunting Jerome Boyatt, a Plateau fugitive who remains elusive even after his surrender and brutal death more than eighty years ago. In 1933, when he was twenty-two years old, he got into a gunfight with two county lawmen sent to arrest him at a logging camp where he was selling moonshine. He killed them both. Then Jerome hid in the rugged country around his home, No Business, a community laid along a creek hollow that joined the Big South Fork River. The manhunt for him, and the vengeance that marked it, count among the Plateau’s most infamous events. 

November 21, 2017
The Old Regular Baptists and the joyful sound.

The Old Regulars sing loud. “You can’t whisper it, it needs to have zip,” one told me. Another: “If you can’t shout down here, what are you gonna do when you get to Heaven?” There is an orderliness to their singing, a formal quality—it has the shape and thrust of liturgy. But it is also indisputably wild.

November 21, 2017

When I was growing up here in the 1980s, the larger world told us we had nothing to be proud of. As Eastern Kentuckians, we knew better. We had our people, our work ethic, and our land. And we had our internationally known musicians: Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall, Jean Ritchie, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, many others. In our little corner of Southeastern Kentucky, we had the Phipps Family—lesser known but still a great source of pride for us.

November 21, 2017

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.

November 21, 2017
Everybody wants to be Southern but don’t nobody want to be Southern, too. To enjoy the culture, to have gentrified ham hocks, but not to deal with ham hocks’ relationship to slavery or slavery’s relationship to the present and future. Folks want the fried chicken and Nashville and trap country music (an actual thing) and sweet tea, but they don’t want Dylan-with-an-extra-“n” Roof or the monstrous spectacle and violence in Charlottesville or the gross neglect and racism after Katrina. No one wants the parts of the South that make America great again.
June 13, 2017

A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue. 

Well, then, this is what I am: adopted Southerner; no longer a part of the church in which I was raised, but still Protestant, albeit an increasingly reluctant one; saddened by what the “church” has become, both the right-wing fundamentalist variety and the watered-down, meaningless palaver that will have nothing to do with Christ or orthodoxy or even the Bible itself; grieving the shuttering of historic places of worship and hoping to document their histories before they become lost.