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 Points South essay from the Place Issue
When I learned of El Refugio, I made a pledge to visit one day. Five years later, I made good on it. I thought of the stories inside of Stewart like a sorrowful pile, mostly forgotten or never thought about in the first place by anyone on the outside. But each story deserved to be singled out and held up to the light and examined. Each became a galaxy upon inspection.
Gospel belongs to God and the blues is the Devil’s business, and here the blues takes the form of Son Thomas, whose spare bottleneck slide strips the tradition down to its roots. Son’s been sculpting figures and heads and skulls from clay gathered in the nearby hills for just about as long as he’s been playing the blues, which is to say: all his life.
Many people have the vague idea that Roy Orbison’s life was marked by tragedy, and that was why he hid his eyes behind dark glasses and sang so many songs about crying, feeling afraid, and dreaming of happier times. This actually gets the cause-and-effect sequence of Orbison’s life all wrong. It turns out that he wrote those terribly sad songs first, then he started dressing in black, and only later did his life fall apart.
Because there wasn’t enough income to pay a full-time hand, all animals requiring daily care had to go. Mountain lions would eat the Boer goats if they went unsold. An emu, whom the old foreman Cruz had jailed in a derelict tennis court, I freed to earn a living in pasture. So long as they had water and grass, the cattle more or less took care of themselves until roundup.
That left the llama.
I wake from a dream in which I am back at military training, among the classrooms and the clash of Claymores, the hot wake of wind from the report of rifles. Booted feet echo through the hallways, and forced voices call cadence while the light bends in the shockwave of bombs.
A Points South essay from the 100th issue.
In chronicling the civil rights movement, one inevitably develops an interest in how racial crimes are remembered in the community where they happened—in the way they gradually turn into folklore—and in Memphis, I have discovered, a sense of fatedness clings to the King assassination.
A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue
I have wanted to visit this house for years. Like many North Carolina kids, I grew up with the broad strokes of Thomas Wolfe’s story, the prolific, small-town genius who became one of the most revered writers of his generation. I lived in North Carolina for most of my life, but I never took the opportunity to visit. Not enough money, not enough time, too much to do: that’s an old story, I know, and a true one. It is also true that we seldom value the places where we live, not enough anyway.