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Issue 119, Winter 2022

Themes of reaching back, across genres and labels, time and memory, appear throughout this edition. The 2022 Country Roots Music Issue features an impressive lineup of contributors: radio host and musician Rissi Palmer traces the long lineage of Black musicians’ contributions to country music; Rodney Crowell reflects on writing just two of the songs from his long and award-winning career; and Dr. Francesca T. Royster, author of Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions, recalls her father’s career as a session musician in ’70s Nashville. Dr. Charles Hughes, author of Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South, listens to Millie Jackson, while Jason Kyle Howard brings Tanya Tucker her flowers. David Ramsey tells the mostly true story of Hiram Williams—better known as Hank. In a visual and archival ballad, John Jeremiah Sullivan uncovers the chilling history of a series of suicides in Texas. National Book Award finalist and OA contributing editor Imani Perry educates us on the country idiom of hip-hop. Our songbook travels from the South to New Jersey to the West to Ireland and beyond, celebrating the indelible sounds of truth, community, and hope.


Johnny Cash, Pray for Me, by Casie Dodd

The Maple Leaf Piano Speaks to the Bayou Maharajah, a poem by Karisma Price

That High Lonesome Sound, by Josina Guess

Mickey Guyton Talks to Us, a Q&A with Melissa Ruggieri

Old-Time Folks, by Baynard Woods

Little Blue Transistor Radio, a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa

Not Country, Not Western, Just West, by Justin Taylor


The Bard of Lower Broadway, by Mikeie Honda Reiland


Dr. Ralph Stanley Live at the Carter Family Fold, a poem by Andrew Lee Butler


The Singer, a story by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips


Exiting / In, by Francesca T. Royster, with Philip M. Royster





Once Upon A High Lonesome

Listening for a cry in the night
by Holly Haworth

The Tragic Tale of Rackback Tom and His Repentant Spouse
a ballad by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Her Rightful Place
The everlasting legend of Tanya Tucker
by Jason Kyle Howard

Silent Heartbeat
Buddy Harman and the quiet revolution of country drumming
by John Lingan

The Country Idiom of Hip-Hop

How trickster tales, diasporic toasts, and James Brown shaped a genre
by Imani Perry

I Ain't Got Nothing But Time
The mostly true legend of Hank Williams
by David Ramsey





Rebecca Gayle Howell on Trio

Noah T. Britton on Solange

Gretchen Peters on hiraeth

Charles Hughes on Millie Jackson

Brían Mac Gloinn on an Irish ballad

Sarah Smarsh on Tracy Chapman

Madeline Weinfield on Patsy Cline

Carina del Valle Schorske on the Pointer Sisters

Carter Sickels on Orville Peck

Annie Zaleski on Olivia Newton-John

Rebecca Bengal on David Berman and Johnny Paycheck

Rodney Crowell on songwriting

Larry Kay on Tomás Doncker

Rissi Palmer on country music lineage

Music Credits


Art byGus Stewart, Gijsbert Hanekroot, Sheri Lynn Behr, Charles Chamblis, Aaron Morse, Julie Blackmon, Josina Guess, Phylicia J. L. Munn, Mike White, John Mullins, Jen Borst, Forrest VanTuyl, Susana Raab, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, T-Marie Nolan, Carter/Reddy, Sid O’Berry, Jamaal Peterman, Ed Thrasher, Julia Reinhart, Christophe Ketels, Mike Reddy, Julia Johnson, Bobbi Fabian, Ralph Dominguez, Rick Kramer, David C. Morton, Greg Mathison, Molly McCall

Cover: Source photographs (clockwise from top): Linda Ronstadt © Gus Stewart/Redferns/Getty Images; Emmylou Harris © Gijsbert Hanekroot/Alamy; Dolly Parton © Sheri Lynn Behr/Alamy