Originally published in our Tennessee Music Issue  There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip,… by Amanda Petrusich | Nov, 2020

Playlists curated by your favorite musicians and writers. by Brittany Howard, Kiese Laymon, Rosanne Cash, Kelsey Waldon, & others | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Music Issue’s Icons Section Beyond my eye, beyond the death and decay of matters left behind and unsettled, the music ringing up above my head told a thousand stories of bounty and belonging, and it glimmered… by Danielle A. Jackson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our 2007 Music Issue  In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most… by Sam Stephenson | Nov, 2020

Originally published in our North Carolina Music Issue.  I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where… by Tiana Clark | Nov, 2020

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… by Jamey Hatley | Nov, 2020

An introduction to the Greatest Hits Music Issue How does the South inform my music? How do I describe the sound that your bare feet make when they pat the cool, packed red dust under them? How do I describe… by Brittany Howard | Oct, 2020

 A Letter from the Editor, Food Issue. Quiet as it is kept, and widely as it has become forgotten, those who do the cooking and the farming know that those who only eat what is cooked for them and served… by Alice Randall | Mar, 2021

Will Stephenson

Will Stephenson wrote the series “Outskirts of the Southern Canon” on OxfordAmerican.org. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the FADER, Pacific Standard, and the Paris Review Daily.

March 13, 2018

An Omnivore essay from the 100th issue. 

In the coming skirmishes over the legitimacy of color photography, the image would take on a great symbolic significance. This minor, inexplicable moment—in which a photographer had pondered a light bulb in the Mississippi Delta—would come to be understood as a shot across the bow of art-world atrophy.

November 21, 2017

There are no great books about the Everly Brothers. No classic documentary films. Despite their influence on American pop music, which would be difficult to overstate, or the great, gaping beauty and sadness of their music, we are left with no lasting monuments to their catalog beyond the catalog itself. That, and—along with other personal tributes—this sad, ugly, perfect collage by Ray Johnson, who finished the piece by scratching large Xs across its surface, some weeks before filing it away in a box, folding over a thousand dollars in cash into the pocket of his windbreaker, and diving off a bridge that January night.

November 02, 2017

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

The problem of pain is one that has long troubled humans in general, but dentists, perhaps, in particular. The issue has vexed the field for centuries. By the late 1950s, general anesthesia in the dentistry community had come under intense scrutiny, given the widely reported numbers of unnecessary deaths. There was the sense that something else—something safer, less toxic, simpler—could be the answer.

September 14, 2017

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

One of the strangest and rarest books in Hannah’s catalog, Power and Light is worth the trouble of seeking out, not only because it is the only tangible artifact of the author’s adventures in Hollywood, but also for its humor and formal uncertainty—a “novella for the screen” is an accurate description.

July 27, 2017

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

I am lying in bed on the Fourth of July. The apartment is empty. A box fan is propped on the dresser, blowing cool air, though I can’t hear it. I’m wearing headphones and listening to Bohannon: Speaks from the Beginning. This is the audiobook memoir of Hamilton Bohannon. Not the audiobook of the memoir, in other words, but the audiobook memoir—it only exists in an audio format. He didn’t find it necessary to write down the details of his life. Sound is his medium, always was. So he speaks.

June 08, 2017

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

When Cash Money was started several years before by the brothers Baby and Slim Williams, Kilo G had been its flagship artist. He was only fourteen when he met Baby and Slim, too young to sign a contract; they’d had to take a ferry across the river to find his grandmother, so she could sign in his place. Before Mannie Fresh, before Lil Wayne—before the fleet of Bentleys and yellow Hummers that roamed the streets of New Orleans like an occupying army—there had been Kilo G.

April 20, 2017

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

One of the paradoxes of George Ellis’s career, in hindsight, is that alongside his run of cheap exploitation films, he maintained a parallel career as Atlanta’s first great arthouse film exhibitor. It adds a layer of complexity to his work, to know that his own taste was impeccable—he understood the full range of cinematic possibilities and would have seen exactly where his films fit into that spectrum. Around the time Demented Death Farm Massacre was hitting theaters, Ellis was introducing Atlanta to the French New Wave and the New German Cinema, hosting retrospectives of Chaplin and Bergman.

March 22, 2016

Reading Terry Southern’s letters, I wondered whether Southern would have really wanted to see it published, or whether that matters. I wondered whether I even liked Terry Southern anymore, having read it. More than once, as he apparently intended, I wondered, Well, is this true?

January 29, 2016

MC Shy D brought hip-hop to Atlanta. Or anyway, he brought Atlanta to hip-hop—in the mid-eighties, he was the first rapper from the city to break out of it, to tour the country and make a name for himself. He became an object of adulation to the whole region.

September 09, 2015

Sweet Jones: Pimp C’s Trill Life Story, the frustrating and fascinating new biography by Julia Beverly, is a bizarre document, and a necessary one: by the time of his death in 2007 at age thirty-three, Pimp C had become recognized as one of the most exciting and influential producers in rap, his drawling, raspy snarl one of the genre’s most iconic guttural expressions.

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