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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On a summer day in 1949, ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, novelist Donald Windham, painter Buffie Johnson, playwright Tennessee Williams, and writer-provocateur Gore Vidal gathered at Café Nicholson, a bohemian supper club set in the back courtyard of an antique store on New York City’s Upper East Side.
Five poems from the spring 2014 issue.
Across the white highway, dogs drift unmoored
Silver-tipped seagrass, but no cactus. An offing
of shopping plazas, their harsh light and low roofs.
That's the way with drought; first dissent,
a worm belief that one place could be another.
I bet it feels good to twist a head of cotton
clean from the stem's fat and browning boll.
I bet it feels good to stand in irrigated rows.
When people ask, why read short stories? I want to say: stories teach us to be noticers the way directions once taught us to be noticers. We sit down with a short story and know we’re going to get somewhere in a single sitting. The details are what will get us there.
Algia Mae Hinton, the great blues guitarist and banjo picker, lives in Johnston County, North Carolina. It’s a short drive from Raleigh and Durham but feels rather far from those cities, with their food trucks and breweries and warehouses refitted as condos—the latest iteration of the New South, one might say, except one finds the same pattern in Brooklyn or the Bay Area. In Johnston County you drift back to an earlier era.
Amid the chorus of opinions and think pieces, the loudest, most eloquent voice was Mayor Landrieu’s, immortalized in a speech he delivered on May 19, 2017. The remarks were meant to unify the city after a divisive period, but they were also meant to explain, from start to finish, the position he had taken from the beginning. “There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it,” he said.
A Points South story from the 100th issue.
In public, she wore head wraps so tight they gave her headaches. Nevertheless, at some point, the hissing caused people to stop what they were doing and squint all around, in search of the sound that happened to be coming from her scalp. It was awkward, and also dangerous, for she was being hunted.
A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue
“I just have this fear every day that somewhere there’s another load going to the landfill of the only known copy of something that helped change American music,” Darden told me. So he started the Restoration Project, which aims to “collect, digitize, and archive” all of the recordings available from “gospel’s golden age,” roughly 1945–1975. Because there is no reliable discography of extant gospel recordings (creating one is another ambition of Darden’s), Darden and other scholars have trouble even estimating how many songs that may turn out to be.