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Issue 111, Winter 2020

This year we’re compiling 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.

The issue also contains playlists presented by guest contributors that limn the bounty of Southern music across genres. These playlists will be accessible on Spotify.

Editor’s Letter: The South Just Has a Thang, by Brittany Howard


On the Edge of Diminished Light
Yusef Komunyakaa on Howlin’ Wolf

R.E.M. for the People
Elizabeth Wurtzel on R.E.M.

Nina Is Everywhere I Go
Tiana Clark on Nina Simone

Soul Sensation
Andria Lisle on Ann Peebles

Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel)
Kiese Laymon on OutKast

Is This Home?
Sam Stephenson on Thelonious Monk

Whose Skip James Is This?
Peter Guralnick on Skip James

The Gospel of Jodeci
Lauren Du Graf on Jodeci

If God Had a Name
Jason Kyle Howard on Joan Osborne

Everybody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Amanda Petrusich on Bessie Smith 


Up Above My Head
Introduction by Danielle A. Jackson

The Godmother of Soul 
Rosanne Cash on Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Another Selena Poem
A poem by Iliana Rocha

Ellis at the Crossroads
Gwen Thompkins on Ellis Marsalis

Long-Haired Country Boy
Elizabeth Nelson on Charlie Daniels

Listening to the (Dixie) Chicks After America Invades Iraq, the Year I Came Out
A poem by Nomi Stone

The Missing Black Notes
Harmony Holiday on Florence Price

A Poem by L. Lamar Wilson

I Know a Place 
Patterson Hood on David Hood

Lingering Could Be Your Doom 
David Ramsey on Brother Claude Ely

The Way They Strut
Alice Randall on LaVern Baker

Jessye Norman Cistern Time to Dress for Fall 
A poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Oracle of Castalia
Jamey Hatley on Talibah Safiya


Curated playlists with introductions by Brittany HowardKiese LaymonTaylor CrumptonKelsey WaldonSilas House & Jason Kyle HowardRosanne CashCynthia ShearerClarissa BrooksSmithsonian Folkways, and Adia Victoria


Art by: Derek Fordjour, Anthony Harrison, Brian Smith, Mike Reddy, Edward Colver, Diana Ejaita, David Scruggs, Janette Beckman, Andres Chaparro, Lawrence N. Shustak, Bernard Gotfryd, Richard A. Chance, Isip Xin, Charles White, Tony Abeyta, Mike Rowe, Travis Boyer, Danny Romeril, Lacy Van Court, Michelle Marchesseault, Aaron Turner, Jason Jägel, Patterson Hood, Mark Cáceres, Garrett Bradley, Kevin Beasley, Martina Attille, Milton Carter, Three Ring Studio

Cover: Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1957. Photo courtesy Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo