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 author reflects on his all-consuming obsession with the White Stripes: "But now—a husband and father of two young boys, a mortgage holder soon to be bushwhacked by forty? Is it not shameful, obsession in this strata of life? Shameful because irresponsible. Irresponsible because every real obsession is an expensive, fatiguing time-suck. How does a grown man come to obsess over a rock band unless something fundamental is lacking in his psyche and soul?"
He threw himself over her, his chest abruptly at her chin, his muscled legs thrillingly on either side of her like a sprung trap. She’d missed the rabbity ways of men, with their hard thighs and long feet. “Um, this is a canopy bed?” he murmured into her ear, nipping in a way that made her close her eyes. “And? You still have dolls, who are watching us.”
I kept returning to the subject of the Nuwaubians, unable to let it go. Even a cursory amount of research showed that the group was a strange phenomenon of the modern age—a true American religion, sworn to a proto-hip-hop preacher sworn to nonsense, that attempted a takeover of a small Georgia town in the late 1990s before a joint federal-local raid brought down its leader. Beneath that historical account was a tangle of details bizarre and bottomless.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
These days—as the weather everywhere grows steadily stranger, storms stronger, seas higher—I worry about the Outer Banks, surrounded by water and just barely above the waves. What does it mean to be from, and of, one of the most vulnerable places on Earth?
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.
Maybe the least expected of the factors that went into making ska in those years, and the one many would argue that most nearly approached it in sound, leading most directly to its birth, came not from Jamaica at all, or even from the Caribbean, but from West Tennessee, and more specifically from South Memphis, and more specifically than that, from the band called the Beale Streeters, and most specifically of all from the right hand of their pianist and sometime singer-songwriter, a Memphis native named Rosco Gordon.
Louisiana's coastline is shrinking, rapidly. As Anne Gisleson reports, "the United States Geological Survey claims oil and gas companies are responsible for roughly a third of the state’s wetlands degradation." To try and claim reparations for this destruction, writer John Barry recently led the people of Louisiana through a lawsuit that aimed to make these companies "comply with the contracts and permits they themselves signed." This is John Barry's story—his work to save Louisiana.