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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A short story from the Fall 2018 issue.He saw no need to damn a place just on the face of it; he figured there must be a flower blooming somewhere in West Memphis, though he had seen no sign of one, and that maybe East St. Louis had a park where children played tag-you’re-it together while old men read newspapers from benches and spoke of last night’s ballgame.
A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music issue.
My hometown is just over an hour from Myrtle Beach, and so it was not unusual for people to make the pilgrimage to the Pad or the Spanish Galleon or Fat Harold’s on Ocean Drive to hear bands like the Embers, the Tams, Chairmen of the Board. I had heard the songs and the names of all the bands long before I was old enough to go. I have a vivid memory of a teenager in the neighborhood, her hair rolled on jumbo orange-juice cans while she danced around barefooted in pedal pushers and a cropped eyelet top, playing Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ “May I” over and over again.
In Lexington, where I’m from, a federal medical prison stands on the town’s west side. Far off the main road, it does not ask our attention as we drive home from the Kroger’s or Goodwill—another sight among many in our urban pastoral. Not so long ago, this building held the nation’s attention as the world’s leading drug rehabilitation center, constructed to save civilization from the addict, and the addict from himself. Though, if the United States Narcotic Farm is today known for anything other than its eventual failure, it’s for the legendary figures who came there.
A Points South essay from the Spring 2019 issue
My family has laid claim to a variety of nationalities and regional affiliations, yet there are still questions I reflect on from time to time regarding my own claim to my current home. Am I a Southerner, and do I have a right to call myself a Southerner? Will others recognize me as a Southerner, despite my lack of accent and because of my Asian face? And what does it mean to take on this identity—what does it mean for me to claim Dixie?
I notice a few other attendees like me—people not in the PSA, interlopers, curious neophytes who have never grown from seed, who have no business even dreaming about discovering new cultivars. On Saturday, one woman interrupts a discussion about propagation methods and says, “Hey, sorry, newbie here. What do you mean by inflo?” The audience collectively gasps.
An interview with the founder of Arhoolie Records, Chris Strachwitz, who remembers the early days of his recording career, his first memories of hearing norteño and Tejano on the radio, traveling with Sam Charters, recording Mance Lipscomb, and more.
A short story from the Fall 2019 issue
Hello, Dolly! is awful, and Patrick knows it. The sets and costumes are all Crayola colors and the music is mercilessly perky and nobody can say a word without shouting and clicking their heels. It’s the kind of feel-good musical that makes you want to slit your wrists. Nobody wants to do Medea again, but there are plenty of audience favorites out there better than Hello, Dolly!
A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.
A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough money for records,” he recalled. “Or I couldn’t find them. So I’d record songs on the radio off the reel-to-reel, and take the reel-to-reel to the party.” There’s a photograph of Jones deejaying the Charleston YMCA wearing pleated baggies and a fade, with a Michelob parked in front of his Akai séance machine.
An excerpt of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.
I grew up in the southwestern frontier near North Augusta, on a ragged, two-hundred-acre family farm where we raised our own beef, grew our own vegetables, and drew our water out of cool, sweet springs. From heaven—or from a high-flying hawk’s viewpoint—I imagine that the plowed fields, pastures, and humble houses looked like a hole punched into the expanse of green. That gap in the wildness was our Home Place.