This year we’ve compiled our “greatest hits,” including selections of the most beloved music writing from our archive—guest edited by Brittany Howard, the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and frontwoman of the Alabama Shakes. This jam-packed issue also includes new essays on iconic Southern artists who have changed the trajectory of American music.
Rather than including a CD this year, we’ve asked guest contributors to curate a selection of playlists that limn the bounty of Southern music across genres. These are available to stream on Spotify.
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An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue
The first songs that I listened to by Talibah Safiya had this soft, sweet, plaintive quality. There is something else underneath if you listen a bit closer: a little loneliness. The knowledge that this sweetness is fleeting. Even though these first songs that I listened to maybe didn’t sound like the blues (one streaming platform calls the tunes Millennial Jazz), the blues was certainly riding under the skirt of that sweetness.
A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.
I keep a photograph on my desk that I printed from the internet. It is a candid snapshot, taken at the end of a gathering of black women. It must be fall because most of them are wearing coats. It looks as if someone insisted at the last minute that they take a photo to capture the evening. In the background, a portrait of Bessie Smith, the blues singer, hangs on the wall.
After breakfast on Saturday, my mama would turn on the WDIA program All Blues Saturday and the blues would growl out of the cream-and-gold GE radio on the kitchen counter, eclipsing my cartoons. Sometimes, she would call to my daddy that one of his songs was on and they would share a low, private chuckle about old times. Grown-up times. Mississippi times.