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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The moon shines over the Delta. A poet wanders home in the dark, her shadow extended by a streetlamp that flickers on, then off again. Alone in a bar, a young detective scratches hasty notes. She thinks she can hear the bartender humming Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”
In August, Iris DeMent will release her sixth album, The Trackless Woods, a collection of songs based on eighteen poems written by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966). The album was recorded in five days last summer in DeMent’s living room and includes poetry from throughout Akhmatova’s life. In this short video, filmed in her home, DeMent reflects further on the writing and recording of the album.
Remembering B.B. King.
Many wonderful anecdotes from King’s long, prolific life have been told in our pages through the years, from the moment in 1948 when he arrived unannounced at Memphis’s WDIA, integrating the airwaves, to his performance last year in Indianola, Mississippi, where he returned for his final homecoming concert at age eighty-eight.
The sun rises over the mountains. A young girl wakes up and pads to the kitchen, where a pot of coffee has been left alone to brew. A plane passes close overhead. Out on the deck, a frayed hammock swings in the breeze.
It’s springtime on the Plains. A group of writers mill nervously around a brightly lit bar. A woman stalks dusty library shelves, scanning names on the canvas spines. Somewhere in Florida, a thunderstorm is brewing.
It’s raining in the Piedmont. A group of poets clink glasses in mutual congratulation. A father and son listen, with hunched shoulders, around an old phonograph. Pages of a burning journal smolder in a sink.
It’s midnight in Kentucky. A man sits at a desk, pecking at an ancient Apple I computer; the light’s still on in the basement. Somewhere a juke box is playing “A Feather’s Not A Bird,” by Rosanne Cash. A glass of bourbon bounces when it hits the barroom floor.