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Issue 103, Winter 2018

North Carolina Music Issue

The Oxford American presents its 20th annual Southern Music Issue, featuring more than twenty-five stories exploring the history and legacy of North Carolina music. Among the many notable contributors to this year’s Southern Music Issue are novelists Jonathan LethemJill McCorkle, and Wiley Cash, and the beloved North Carolina musicians Rhiannon Giddens and Tift Merritt. Tryon-native Nina Simone, one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, graces the cover in a portrait by Jim Blanchard; Simone is the subject of a feature essay about artistic influence and identity, written by poet Tiana Clark.

The issue comes with a 28-song sampler of recordings by North Carolinians sourced across nearly a century. The compilation highlights music from NC legends like Simone, Thelonious Monk and John ColtraneEarl Scruggs and Doc WatsonJames Taylor, and Elizabeth Cotten, plus a wide-ranging host of others. Accompanying the sampler are detailed liner notes and essays on the songs by Ron RashLaura BallanceRandall Kenan, and others.


Notes on the songs, including: 

"Lights in the Valley" (Live)
Rhiannon Giddens on Joe & Odell Thompson 

“Don't Play That Song (You Lied)”
Michael Parker on Ruby Johnson 

"You Don't Come See Me Anymore"
Mark Powell on Malcolm Holcombe

"Holy Ghost, Unchain My Name"
Tift Merritt on Elizabeth Cotten 

“Mill Mother's Lament“
Wiley Cash on Ella May Wiggins 

"Me Oh My"
David Joy on the Honeycutters

“Somebody Else's World“
Harmony Holiday on June Tyson

David Menconi, Ron Rash, Nathan Salsburg, Maxwell Neely-Cohen, Laura Ballance, Marshall Wyatt, Brendan Greaves, and Randall Kenan


John Coltrane’s Spiritual High Point, by Benjamin Hedin

Beach Music Memories, by Jill McCorkle

Why 9th Wonder Stayed, by Dasan Ahanu

Two Lumbee Baptisms, by Malinda Maynor Lowery 

Etta Baker’s Morganton Chord, by Rebecca Bengal

I Remember the dB’s, by Jonathan Lethem

James Taylor’s Chapel Hill, by Will Blythe

Big Boy Henry’s Open-Hearted Blues, by Tom Rankin

La Musica Latina en Charlotte, by Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas

John Cage’s Black Mountain Music, by John Thomason

Wesley Johnson, A Teentone in Rome, by Jon Kirby

Ryan Adams, Thomas Wolfe, and Leaving Home, by Maxwell George

How Kinston Changed Music, by Sarah Bryan

George Clinton’s Funky Origins, by Dave Tompkins  


Of What America, by Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley 

Hellbender, by Nickole Brown 

The World Grows, by Tyree Daye 

North Carolina State Fair, by C. L. White

Fort Bragg Winter, by Zachary Lunn 


Nina Is Everywhere I Go
Finding the artist by facing the damage that made me
by Tiana Clark

That Kind of Money
Liquid Pleasure’s ascent into wedding band superstardom
by Abigail Covington

The Gospel of Jodeci
Sex, money, God, and slow jams
by Lauren Du Graf 

Queen of Snow Hill
Rapsody on top in hip-hop—and at home
by L. Lamar Wilson

Mystic Chords
Link Wray—power-chord progenitor—made his most transcendent music in a chicken shack
by John O’Connor


Art by: Jim Blanchard, Sandlin Gaither, Juan Logan, Minnie Evans, David Holt, Gai Terrell, Marthanna Yater, Scott Hazard, Hatty Ruth Miller, Christian Marclay, Jeremy M. Lange, Tom Rankin, Rosalia Torres-Weiner, Joseph Fiore, Lindsay Metivier, Romare Bearden, Richard E. Aaron, Angela Franks Wells, Amy Sherald, Fahamu Pecou, Deborah Roberts, Tom Martin, Chris Charles