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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 16, 2016
The music of Texas is as vast and hard to define as the Lone Star state itself; it covers every genre of American music—transcending culture, race, language, and historical circumstance—and yet reveals a distinctive soulprint that you won’t hear anywhere else.
June 16, 2017

“I didn’t do any research,” Luther Dickinson said with a grin as he opened the door to his room at the Washington Square Park Hotel. Dickinson was in New York for a show that evening at Rockwood Music Hall, and he had agreed to talk with me about a question I’d become obsessed with: Did blues slide guitar evolve from the Hawaiian steel guitar or from the African instrument usually claimed as its ancestor?

November 21, 2017

In 1892, Mildred wrote an article titled “Negro Music” for Music, a Chicago journal. She used the pseudonym Johann Tonsor because she was worried that her ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously if readers knew she was a woman. Two decades before the appearance of jazz, she claimed that the African-American sound would be the basis of American music in the next century. Mildred, who died in 1916, had no idea that one of her own African-American-influenced tunes would become an enduring part of popular culture. 

November 19, 2019

A poem from the South Carolina Music Issue.

I slipped into a clumsy dress
I built out of magnolia 
leaves, strings and staples
so I could marry Thomas
in the backyard 
back when we adorned
our heads with imaginary
crowns and called each
other queens

April 05, 2016
He was a small man, 5'6" and about 160 pounds, a smoker in his mid-forties. His face was disfigured by a crushed nose that never properly healed. He had cut scars on his shoulder and right forearm. He was a Baptist and wore a size 7 shoe.
April 14, 2017

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

You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
You step on the gas, honey, then take your foot off the clutch.
This little car is going nowhere, honey, without your touch.
November 21, 2017

A Freakwater song works something like this. Irwin starts singing over a bass and guitar. Bean comes in after a few bars, accompanied by violin or pedal steel. They trade lines back and forth, then converge into stacked harmonies in which Irwin’s low earthy timbre finds a counterpoint in Bean’s airy alto. It’s those two perfectly paired voices that keep you from drowning in what the songs are actually about.

November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

Rapsody now dons the mantle for a long tradition of black women, particularly those from the South, forcing Americans to look in the mirror of our professed ideals and to face the ills that haunt us. She carries the torch the outspoken, Tryon-born Nina Simone held high in the heat of the last century’s civil rights movement, before she fled to Europe for respite and asylum. She embodies the quiet fire and sensuality of the diminutive Roberta Flack, born in the Asheville-area town of Black Mountain, whose blend of torch ballads, folk, soul, gospel, and disco transformed what could be decidedly black and land in the genre of “pop music” as the civil rights fight gave way in the latter part of the century to the cultural appropriation that integration wrought.

November 19, 2019

A poem from the South Carolina Music Issue.

Clara Smith, Blues woman. They share 
a room with no peephole, old gal, 

young gal, they laugh and tell the boys 
who want to stop by, they’s roommates. 

April 05, 2016
Canvassing Texas for undocumented songs and sounds, Owens stumbled across the big secret: field recording is holy work, eavesdropping on the unsyndicated histories of the world.