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The Oxford American’s 22nd Annual 
Southern Music Issue

Guest edited by
BRITTANY HOWARD

 

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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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May 05, 2016

A poem from the Spring 2016 issue.

Two wasps copulate over your back porch—
their wings grate the air above the ochre splotch

where a hawk took down a pigeon last winter
not long after your move into the yellow house

May 26, 2017

The films and young filmmakers of the Summer Documentary Institute at Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute.

Generations of eastern Kentucky youth have had to contend with the question of whether to leave, alongside the demeaning narrative of the rural “brain drain.” This reductive theory posits that the best and brightest minds leave rural communities for urban communities. This simplification of data ignores the stories of those who choose to stay or are not able to leave. For many young people here, it is an act of resistance to stay in the community they love.

November 09, 2017

A Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note. 

Raised in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, Whitley grew up admiring country greats Lefty Frizzell and George Jones, whose vocal styles he imitated as a young musician. Whitley’s uncanny talent for mimicry is something of a legend around Nashville—he could, upon request, conjure with eerie precision the voices of Lester Flatt, Carter Stanley, and numerous others. He was, apparently, a man inhabited by an indwelling of spirits.

November 21, 2017

A girl was singing in one of the houses we passed. The sound rose up on the wind and out of the brownstone and out of the window down to us on the air. This girl behind that fluttering window curtain was an odd bird whose song I craved. I walked slow and deliberate to try and catch every note. I wanted to tell Glory to hush. This moment felt important to me, like I had just discovered some world for the first time, but Glory kept talking and kept walking. Knowing that I’d miss the end of that song, that I’d never know how it ended, made me want to cry. 

January 13, 2016

Cooking with Chris. Before we begin preparing the possum for baking, I’d like to relate two highly personal stories about possums. One is quite sentimental and the second has a squeamish element, so I will lead with the sweet and kind.

June 05, 2017

The films and young filmmakers of the Summer Documentary Institute at Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute.

Introducing the film “Go Your Own Way” and its creators, Jaydon Tolliver, Elyssia Lowe, and Joshua Collier.

November 15, 2017

A Kentucky Music Issue web-exclusive liner note. 

Jim Ford’s lone album is a twenty-eight minute, mystical celebration of the kid that got away—a hazy, bourbon-and-cocaine-fueled-funk-&-soul-honky-tonk cousin to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

November 21, 2017

That Hell was born and raised not in some dark and edgy urban enclave but in the rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky, can feel incongruous. It’s too soft, where he comes from—too genteel. Yet having emerged from a region Hell considers a Nowhere—not in the ugly or pejorative sense, but in the empty sense, a place that was just like any other place, a blank place—allowed for wild self-creation later on. These are ideas that repeat for Hell: blankness, voids. He is someone who understands how to make something from nothing.

March 30, 2015

Divided into four sections and set in Kentucky, Fanny Says  by Nickole Brown weaves a double narrative that folds together both a granddaughter’s recollections and a grandmother’s persona. The imagery is blunt, the dialect true, and what unfolds is a metaphoric hope chest, a series of living flashbacks through which Brown creates a poetic treatise on memory’s workings.

February 27, 2017

Photographs from the Summer 2014 issue. 

Drawing from the famous nineteenth century portraits made by Doris Ulmann, Lisa Elmaleh’s project American Folk documents the contemporary development of traditional arts throughout the Appalachian Mountains.