Up South Music Credits
By Oxford American
Cover image: “Theresa's Lounge, 48th and Indiana, Chicago, Illinois,” 1977, by Jonas Dovydenas. Courtesy the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project collection (AFC 1981/004), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. CD Face image: Jenny Thompson - Adobe Stock
The Oxford American 2021 Up South Music Issue Sampler was compiled and produced by Danielle A. Jackson and the Oxford American staff along with Andrew Rossiter (ORG Music). It was manufactured by ORG Music and mastered by Mitch Rackin. Its cover art and disc were designed by Carter/Reddy. The Oxford American believes artists and craftspeople should be paid for their labor. We are grateful to the artists and song rights holders who worked with our fee structures and, with their creativity, enrich our lives daily. We have credited them here.
Praise The Lord
Mary Lou Williams
Released in 1964, “Praise The Lord” closes pianist, composer, and theorist Mary Lou Williams’s Black Christ of the Andes. The song and album signaled a new era for Williams, who’d converted to Catholicism in the ’50s and would go on to compose and lead “Mary Lou’s Mass” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Born in Atlanta in 1910, Williams moved to Pittsburgh with her family as a small child. Her earliest performances around town were at funerals, parties, and a brothel. In the late ’20s, she joined Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, a touring Kansas City–style big band, and spent much of the swing era working in Duke Ellington’s and Benny Goodman’s orchestras. When jazz changed in the 1940s, she was there. She’d moved to Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood in 1943, and her apartment became a gathering space for the musicians who were developing bebop. Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell all looked to Williams for guidance, and their innovations, in turn, made their way into her compositions. Black Christ of the Andes synthesized the mysticism Williams expressed throughout her life, her newfound faith, and her long-held belief in the wellspring of Black music as portent and balm. “Praise The Lord” is raucous; rhythm—delivered by bass, tambourines, drums, and Williams—foregrounds the tune. Saxophone parts by Budd Johnson and a rousing, trickster-like vocal by gospel singer Jimmy Mitchell trouble and dissolve the divide between sacred and secular sound. As Harmony Holiday puts it in this issue: “She swings so well on this song that her range of motion fills the air with the ache of injustice. How can anyone swing like this and survive it?” Williams teaches us that we cannot survive well without swinging.
Writer: Mary Lou Williams
Publishing: Cecilia Music Publishing Co. (ASCAP), Administered by Modern Works Music Publishing
Arranged by Melba Liston
Performed by Mary Lou Williams
A prolific vocalist and pianist, Shirley Horn famously accompanied her own lavish contralto on the keys, her command evident in the harmony of two exacting talents. “I like a piano that can fight back,” she said in a 1989 profile. “When I hit it I want it to hit me back.” Born and raised in D.C., Horn drew the attention of Miles Davis with her debut album, Ashes and Embers (1960), performing with him before joining Quincy Jones at Mercury. Soon after, Horn would take an extended hiatus to raise her daughter. She released Softly in her fifties, in an era of her career marked by global tours, a slew of Grammy nominations (and a 1998 win for Best Jazz Vocal Performance), and a Jazz Master Fellowship, the highest honor awarded to U.S. jazz musicians. “Forget Me” is a signature of the Taurean’s style: sensitive, unwavering, and, above all, achingly romantic.
Writer: Valerie Parks Brown
Publishing: Hampshire House Publishing Corp. (ASCAP), Administered by TRO ESSEX MUSIC GROUP
Produced by Joel E. Siegel
Performed by Shirley Horn
“St. Lost” is the title track on the second album from Tonina Saputo, a St. Louis artist known for her arrangements and covers of songs in English, Spanish, and Italian. The track features intricately choreographed vocals, jumping scales and stretching words like “loner” in the first verse into a protracted plea. Born to a musical lineage, the self-described folk musician grew up with a mix of Motown and jazz greats like Nat King Cole, learning Spanish to emulate her favorite Selena Quintanilla hits.
Writer: Tonina Saputo
Publishing: Tonina Saputo (BMI)
Arranged by Tonina Saputo
Performed by Tonina
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Under the direction of Duke Ellington, “Chopsticks,” composed in 1877 by sixteen-year-old Euphemia Allen using the pen name Arthur de Lulli, bears little resemblance to the piece most beginner piano students learn. Rather, what’s formally a waltz is reimagined as a playful plunking piano tune that gives way to a swinging big band jazz rendition. Ellington, born in Washington, D.C., and perhaps best known for his weekly broadcast performances from Harlem’s Cotton Club, was an expert at crafting dynamic orchestrations for short pieces like this one, which was pressed on a 78 rpm along with “Honeysuckle Rose.”
Writer: Euphemia Allen
Performed by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Contemporary composer Courtney Bryan arranges music for solo performances, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and as accompaniment for singers, dancers, and visual art. An accomplished scholar as well as a musician, Bryan incorporates elements of improvisational jazz, gospel, spirituals, and classical music into her work, which has been described as “bridging the sacred and the secular.” Steve Smith for the New Yorker wrote of the New Orleans native, “Courtney Bryan is skilled at spinning melodic lines that sing irresistibly.” A perfect example of these enchanting lines can be found in “Generation Y.”
Writer: Courtney Bryan
Publishing: LIGHTOFMINEONLINE (ASCAP)
Arranged and performed by Courtney Bryan
Didn’t It Rain (Live)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
“Didn’t It Rain,” a gospel standard, became a “race record” hit in 1947 for Arkansas-born Sister Rosetta Tharpe (with Marie Knight and the Sam Price Trio). But here, as in most of her performances, Tharpe’s bravura turns with her guitar and voice break the bounds of categorization. Gayle F. Wald writes in “From Spirituals to Swing” that Tharpe’s “charismatic guitar playing and extroverted stage persona helped to establish what today we take for granted as ‘rock’ convention,” and one can certainly hear (and see on YouTube clips) what Chuck Berry and others must have learned from her. What’s inimitable, though, is her spirit.
Traditional/Spiritual performed by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
John Doe needs no introduction; he’s omnipresent and omnitalented. From L.A. by way of Illinois, Tennessee, and Baltimore, the co-founder of the seminal punk band X, with whom he still tours, has imprinted his artistry on a range of creative genres—literary, musical, cinematic—and a range of genres within those genres. “Wheels” is a cover of a song written by the similarly omnitalented Particle Kid, the nom de smoke plume of Willie Nelson’s son Micah. The song was released on a split album on which the two covered each other’s songs. Doe’s version strips the track to its core and invests it with a gravity that manages to convey both world-weariness and hopefulness.
Writer: Jacob Micah Nelson
Publishing: Particle Kid LLC (BMI)
Performed by John Doe
Named for lead singer Lowell George’s small feet (and borrowing the odd spelling of the Beatles’ band name), the Southern California–based band Little Feat released their third studio album, Dixie Chicken, in 1973 with a style based heavily on New Orleans r&b. “Two Trains” is the second song on the album and features George’s easy melody, Bonnie Raitt among its chorus of background vocalists, and the soft guitar that helped define the new sound that would secure Little Feat’s place among legends.
Writer: Lowell George
Publishing: Naked Snake Music (ASCAP)
Produced by Lowell George
Performed by Little Feat
Touch the Sky
In his profile of Adrian Quesada in this issue, Jim Beaugez calls the producer and Black Pumas guitarist a “conservator” of Chicano soul who takes seriously his responsibility for documenting the evolution of the genre, as well as hip-hop and r&b in southern Texas. In “Touch the Sky,” Quesada and vocalist Eric Burton incorporate these elements into a grooving, soulful melody that appears on their eponymous first album. For more from Quesada, see his curated playlist on our Spotify profile.
Writers: Eric S. Burton and Adrian Quesada
Publishing: EL DELUXE MUSIC (ASCAP), EL DELUXE MUSIC (BMI)
Produced by Adrian Quesada
Performed by Black Pumas
Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)
Iron & Wine
“Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog),” from Iron & Wine’s third studio album, would be easy to miss on first listen. It’s one of the weirder songs on a record that’s already a departure from Sam Beam’s earlier work, music that tended more toward stripped-down folk than the heavily produced delivery heard here—not to mention that the last two minutes of the song are entirely instrumental. The Shepherd’s Dog was Iron & Wine’s last release with Sub Pop before departing briefly and eventually returning to the label with triumphant hits such as 2017’s Beast Epic.
Writer: Sam Beam
Publishing: SAM BEAM MUSIC (BMI)
Produced by Brian Deck and Sam Beam
Performed by Iron & Wine
Stare at Me
Known for her genre-defying music, Joi demands attention in her 2018 single “Stare at Me” with fuzzy electronic beats, gospel vocals, and a chorus reminiscent of late-Nineties rock. “Lyrically, it speaks on having your thoughts hijacked,” Joi reveals on her website. “It’s about the deep desire to be seen and want to be on someone’s mind because of this social media and digital obsession we have.” Born in Nashville, Joi is known for influencing the Atlanta music scene in the ’90s and, as she writes in this issue, “every audacious Black artist in this country who has come after me whether they know it or not.”
Writers: Joi Gilliam and Brook D'leau
Publishing: Joilicious Music (BMI) & ILLAV8R GOES UP (ASCAP)
Produced by Brook D'leau
Co-produced by Joi
Written, arranged, and performed by Joi
Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him
Betty Davis was born Betty Mabry in 1944 in Durham, North Carolina. With her family, she moved to Pittsburgh when she was twelve, and at seventeen, she set out solo for New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. She found work as a model and nightclub manager while learning to write songs; the Chambers Brothers cut an early composition, “Uptown,” which she’d written about Harlem. In 1968, the songwriter married Miles Davis and famously introduced him to the music of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix. When their marriage ended the following year, she kept her married name and continued to write songs. She released her self-titled debut in 1973, and They Say I’m Different, its follow-up, in 1974. Full of mid-tempo, rock-infused funk, the album opens with “Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him.” The song is many things: a deep groove with Buddy Miles on lead guitar, a strutting come-on, an ode to feminine sexual power. None of her albums were hits in their day, and Davis retired from recording and performing altogether in the 1980s. Her songs live on in the music of Tamar-kali, Joi, Erykah Badu, Kelis, Janelle Monáe, and more.
Writer: Betty Mabry
Publishing: Higher Music Publishing Inc. (ASCAP) / Mabry Betty Music Co. (ASCAP), Administered by Modern Works Music Publishing
Produced by Betty Davis
Performed by Betty Davis
Courtesy of Light in the Attic Records & Distribution, LLC
Have You Been Good To Yourself
In 2012, a local record collector discovered a cassette tape of the self-produced seven-track-long gospel recording Have You Been Good to Yourself in a Memphis thrift store. Johnnie Frierson had been born in the city in 1945 and sang and played guitar for an area COGIC congregation with his younger sister, Mary. The duo made rounds in the city’s vibrant gospel and soul scenes, forming a group, the Drapels, with two other young musicians before landing at Stax in 1963. Their recording “After Laugher (Comes Tears),” co-written by Johnnie, was released in 1964 as a single by Wendy Rene—Mary had been rechristened with a stage name dreamt up by Otis Redding. While she launched a solo career, Johnnie gigged around town, sometimes cutting solo recordings like “Tumbling Down” with Willie Mitchell and Hi Records until he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. The artist returned home noticeably shaken but continued to make music. Frequent OA contributor and Brooks Museum curator Andria Lisle calls the intimate, soul-searching songs on Have You Been Good To Yourself, recorded in a home studio in the 1990s, “so laid-back, yet so commanding.”
Writer: Johnnie Lee Frierson
Publishing: Light In The Attic Songs (BMI), Administered by Domino Publishing Company of America Inc.
Performed by Johnnie Frierson
Courtesy of Keesha Frierson & Light in the Attic Records & Distribution, LLC
The Midnight Special
Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy’s life story is twisted up in mystery. Everywhere something solid exists, one of his tall tales seems to shake it loose. It’s believed he was born in Arkansas, in 1903, as Lee Conley Bradley, but, according to Broonzy himself, he was born in 1893, in Mississippi. As a natural and skilled storyteller, Broonzy’s contributions to the blues canon were marked by gripping narratives that bent, shook, and rattled with his guitar. Broonzy took his unique style to Chicago with him in 1920, and it caught on. His version of “The Midnight Special,” released in 1938, revitalized the traditional folk song, which is thought to have originated among imprisoned workers in the South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Traditional Performed by Big Bill Broonzy
By the Jasmine
Northern California–based singer-songwriter Tré Burt’s style combines classic folk guitar with a newer lo-fi roots style. In 2019, Burt went from busking to getting signed to the late John Prine’s Oh Boy Records. There, Burt re-recorded his first album and set to work on a follow-up. “By the Jasmine” is his sophomore album’s first single. Set in the streets of Sacramento, it was recorded in Durham, North Carolina, reversing the typical flow of industry talent and establishing a blurred boundary between old and new influences.
Writer: Tré Burt
Publishing: TRE CL BURT MUSIC (BMI)
Produced by Brad Cook
Written, arranged, and performed by Tré Burt
Blue Ridge Mountains
With pacing like the ebbs and flows of a float traveling down a river and the reverb turned to eleven, “Blue Ridge Mountains” is from Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut album from 2008. Its sound is at once coming down from high on the hill and also being shouted up. The Seattle-based band culled multiple influences—Celtic songs, church guitar choirs, Crosby, Stills, & Nash—when creating the record. Yet it feels like something we could play at home, with acoustic guitars, a piano, and tight harmonies. “Blue Ridge Mountains” is also the sound of finding a new home: “You’re ever welcome with me anytime you like / Let’s drive to the countryside.”
Writer: Robin Noel Pecknold
Publishing: Foxes Fellowship (ASCAP), Administered by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing
Produced by Phil Elk
Performed by Fleet Foxes
Particle Kid was christened by his father Willie Nelson, who, emerging from a haze of marijuana, misremembered the biblical story of the “prodigal son.” An errant naming by the Outlaw King—like calling out to like. “The Ocean” is the lead single from Particle Kid’s self-titled debut album, an insistent stream of self-assurance and rejoining interrogation. The L.A.-based artist cites a span of influences, from the panoramic folk of his forebears to the funk of Stax Records’ house band.
Writer: Jacob Micah Nelson
Publishing: Particle Kid LLC (BMI)
Produced by Harlan Steinberger
Written, arranged, and performed by Particle Kid
Emily Scott Robinson
Colorado-based Emily Scott Robinson was born in Winston-Salem and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Delta Line” from the album Traveling Mercies displays the artist’s tendency toward strong characters and vivid storytelling, inflecting a vast record of familial drama with meticulous details of personal ruin. Robinson employs the archetype of the train to convey country’s classic themes of searching and yearning, with Rolling Stone naming the totality of Traveling Mercies one of the top country and Americana albums of 2019.
Writer: Emily Scott Robinson
Publishing: EMILY ROBINSON (ASCAP)
Produced by Neilson Hubbard
Performed by Emily Scott Robinson
Sunny War’s “Like Nina” is a soft, mournful dive into the roles of Black women in American music: they can either “dance like Tina,” “sing love songs like Aretha,” or have a “Beyhive.” War is like Nina Simone with her “sad look” and “demeanor,” and she sings this proclamation gently but firmly over skillful chords plucked on her electric guitar. Based in Los Angeles, Sunny War is a folk-punk musician from Nashville, Tennessee. “Like Nina” is from Simple Syrup (2021).
Writer: Sydney Ward
Publishing: Sunny War (BMI)
Produced by Harlan Steinberger
Written, arranged, and performed by Sunny War
Ain’t No Way
“Ain’t No Way” is the lush, open-hearted finale of Lady Soul, Aretha Franklin’s twelfth album and third for Atlantic in just two years. Its center is Franklin’s vocal, which is sinuous and lithe, restrained yet teeming with silken sincerity. At twenty-five, the artist was at one apex of many throughout her six-decade career. She accompanies herself on piano; she takes her time. Franklin’s first utterance of the word love, thirty seconds in, lasts nearly an entire measure and stretches out for a melismatic six syllables. Her baby sister Carolyn composed the lyric and its melody. Frequently covered by “the best storytellers in Black music’s matrilineal generations,” as Tarisai Ngangura writes in this magazine, the song describes an unrealized love; in this sense, it is a mourning song, a lament. It is also one of refusal. There is an urgent plea, and its resolution: the narrator will not belabor the attempt. “Ain’t No Way” is a lesson in moving on, reclaiming one’s time, saying no to what hurts, what will not let up.
Writer: Carolyn Franklin
Publishing: Cotillion Music Inc. (BMI) / Fourteenth Hour Music Inc. (BMI), Administered by Warner Chappel Music, Inc. Produced by Jerry Wexler
Performed by Aretha Franklin