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The Oxford American’s 22nd Annual 
Southern Music Issue

Guest edited by
BRITTANY HOWARD

 

Order your copy today.

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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April 28, 2016

A short story from the Summer 2013 issue.

Swansea said he’d never cried, not even when he was a kid, because it’s such a false and easy way to the thing that’s eating you. Like crying is too simple for real sadness.

Fear, though. We know about fear. It makes a hot rush out of my head when it comes on, and I can’t be held responsible.

June 02, 2014
Mal Mardis spun two spent rolls of color film on the bar, didn’t look up at Gus, and realized that cutting basic cable alone wouldn’t solve the problem. He’d also have to find a way for his wife to quit subscribing to the magazines. This morning’s mission was no different than when Brenda renovated their bathroom, den, or what used to be a two-car garage. Mal was supposed to drop off the film at any of the one-hour developers twenty miles from their house, use that time to buy at least two dozen frames, go back to the developer—Eckerd, Jack Rabbit, Walmart, One-Hour Photo—select the nicest shots, and ask that the person behind the counter now blow them up into 8 x 10s.
April 04, 2016

A story from our spring 2013 issue.

You see the painter standing outside the book store, smoking, one hand shoved into the pocket of his jeans, a hooded sweatshirt giving him the squat, neckless look of a bodybuilder. But you know, from the opening/reading the night before—he wore a short-sleeved, double-pocketed shirt like the one your father used to wear bowling—that his arms are thin, muscle tone soft. Four months later, when he sends you a picture of himself naked, six muscle-pounds heavier, leaning back in his office chair to better display (you assume) the newly articulate abdominal lines, you will tell him you remember noticing, that first night, the paunch of his stomach beneath the bowling shirt.

January 28, 2016

For three over-warm days in late May, Allan Gurganus welcomed me to his home to hold forth on his life and art, and on the imminent publication of Local Souls, about the invented town of Falls, North Carolina, population 6,803. An ordinary place of extraordinary people, Falls appears in nearly all of Gurganus’s fiction—“an inexhaustible resource,” he calls it, a town he knows with such kissing intimacy he can amble in it block by block and tell you how many cracks the sidewalks have.

April 15, 2016

A guy on the local news said most gas stations lowered their prices at nine in the morning and raised them at four, something about fucking over people who’d already driven to work and drivers who didn’t leave their cubicles until dusk. He didn’t exactly use those words, but any rational cynic knew what he meant.

March 14, 2017

A story by Jesmyn Ward, the first of three excerpts from her forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. 

I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight. When Pop tell me he need my help and I see that black knife slid into the belt of his pants, I follow Pop out the house, try to keep my back straight, my shoulders even as a hanger; that’s how Pop walks. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I’ve earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I’m ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today’s my birthday.

December 06, 2016

A feature from our 18th Southern Music Issue: Visions of the Blues.

The place I was raised in and where occurred the events that most shaped and damaged me as a human being was called Silver Hills. It’s a “knob,” as they deem the low hills in that part of the country. This one had used to be Cane or Caney Knob, so named because when the whites arrived it was covered in tall river cane. The cane is gone but the knob remains, and the people rechristened it Silver Hills, claiming as always that this had been the Indian name. 

April 14, 2016

A photography feature from our Spring 2013 issue.

The landscape photography of J Henry Fair explores the permeable boundary between unearthly beauty and unspeakable environmental destruction.

November 10, 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 she started, imagining her daddy playing jazz standards on the piano, her mama cooking something good and greasy in the cramped kitchen with siblings zooming around. I envisioned myself, like Alice Walker looking for Zora Neale Hurston’s unmarked grave, shouting Nina in the derelict home, hoping somehow she would appear, gloriously phantasmagoric, and answer all of my incessant probing questions.

November 16, 2016

You can argue endlessly about whether it’s Elvis, W. C. Handy, Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rufus Thomas, Sam Phillips, Dewey Phillips, or Justin Timberlake who best defines Memphis music. I’m going with Jim Dickinson.