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.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things OA.
A Points South essay from the Spring 2020 issue
My father said it seemed like we were due for one of those great hurricanes that periodically wipe the beach clean. If a deadly storm was coming, local legend has it that we would be warned. The story goes that a ghost clad in gray stalks the beach in advance of every major hurricane, warning passersby. Those who heed the Gray Man’s warning are spared, and all those who don’t, perish.
"Since daybreak, I had been wandering around Cadillac Ranch, an enormous outdoor sculpture made from ten classic Cadillacs planted hood-first in the middle of a wheat field in Amarillo, Texas, abutted by a cluster of RV parks and motels. Erected in 1974 by the art collective known as Ant Farm, the “Stonehenge of the Panhandle” has become one of the most beloved attractions along Route 66. Part of the Ranch’s appeal comes from its conspicuous absence of velvet ropes, viewing hours, and annoying wall texts."
Reverend King and Elvis and Mr. Crump are just our famous ghosts, the public phantoms we share. Like everyone else, Memphians have their own private ghosts. Mine is tall and skinny and bald and wears black glasses—the same ones that are back in style.
We sat cross-legged on the cement floor of a warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward, not far from the train tracks. In the center was a small wooden house with singing pipes built into its walls. This was Chateau Poulet, a musical shanty about to perform for all of us.
A Points South essay from the 100th issue.
If the earth is wet enough and acidic enough, the first thing you’ll find when you start digging up a grave is a coffin-shaped halo in the ground. That’s the mark left by the pinewood walls of the casket as they decayed into deep umber in the dirt. Everything else—the lid, the body itself, and whatever earthly treasures went into the hole along with it—has been pushed down to the bottom. The halo descends about a foot, until you reach the grave’s lowest stratum, where you can find scraps of bone, or metal, or just more multicolored dirt. In drier conditions, you might find a lot more than that.
A Points South story from the Fall 2018 issue
In the evenings, after the day’s rain, my grandfather drove through Starke counting cars in the lots of other motels, doing the math and feeling like a winner. For guests visiting family members held in the nearby state prison, home of Florida’s electric chair, he offered a special rate, either out of sympathy or, envisioning the stream of customers who would return once a month, good business sense. (Probably both, my mother says.)