Vessel of Antiquity

For musical performance artist Leon Redbone, the past was all the material he needed, except his own, which he replaced with a persona. “I don’t have a past,” he said. “The past begins tomorrow.” Strange enough to earn comparisons to Frank Zappa and Tom Waits, Redbone often got shelved in record stores’ rock sections, even though rock, as one of his band members said, was “the one style of music he didn’t play.” Redbone passed away on May 30, and this profile unravels some mysteries while deepening others.
Author: Megan Pugh
Source: Oxford American
Published: Mar 19, 2019
Length: 20 minutes (5,234 words)

Queen of Snow Hill

To the larger world, Marlanna “Rapsody” Evans came rushing out of nowhere like a breath of fresh air in a dank field of female MCs, where rumors of butt injections, baby-daddy drama, dis records, Twitter beefs, and Fashion Week fisticuffs too often taint discussions about women’s flow and relevance, where lyricists of substance get labeled “conscious” and thus niche. Not Rapsody. She’s been slowly building her cred as Jamla’s wunderkind, guided by super-producer and hip-hop scholar Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit, grindin’ around the world while holding fast to the values she learned from Mama Laila, her parents, and her vast family, which includes four siblings, a dozen aunts and uncles on her mother’s side alone, and a cadre of cousins. Many of her kin still reside in Snow Hill, a town of roughly two thousand in North Carolina’s Coastal Plains region, full of tobacco farms and open fields, jukes and corner stores, a penitentiary, and a smattering of churches. The DuPont plant in nearby Kinston employs many residents; Rapsody’s father, Roy, worked there as a mechanic for years.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 20, 2018
Length: 22 minutes (5,500 words)

Mystic Chords

Best known for his 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble,” guitarist Link Wray recorded a trio of underappreciated albums with his brothers in their family chicken shack in the early 1970s. They sound like nothing else in his sprawling rock catalogue.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 1, 2018
Length: 32 minutes (8,115 words)

Longer Than The Song Of A Whip-Poor-Will

As a series of strokes robbed Michael Graff’s dad of his mobility and his mental faculties, Graff looks at what it means to hope and what it means to love, finding them in things that are common and simple, in the clarity of a beautiful lyric, the call of a whip-poor-will, and a last loving embrace.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 12, 2018
Length: 8 minutes (2,228 words)

Deep River

Before anyone could write a comprehensive discography of golden age gospel recordings, upwards of 75 percent of this uniquely American music got destroyed or lost. Music historian Robert Darden runs the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project to protect and share what’s left.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 4, 2018
Length: 13 minutes (3,436 words)

Culture Shock

Scott Korb reflects on his white privilege and the state of Florida and its racist history — a state in which his life was irrevocably changed at age 5, when his father was killed by a drunk driver in May, 1982.

Author: Scott Korb
Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 4, 2018
Length: 17 minutes (4,278 words)

The Lexington Cure

When the United States Narcotic Farm opened in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935, it aimed to rehabilitate drug offenders and equip them for a productive sober life. In the process, it became a place for jazz musicians to take a break and jam together. A Kentucky poet who grew up near the farm reflects on the way she found her own cure.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 21, 2017
Length: 13 minutes (3,312 words)

Border Wars

When writer and scholar Zandria F. Robinson tries to understand what makes “southernness” a distinct quality in music, food, language, or attitudes about race, she realizes that borders and categories are porous.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Nov 21, 2017
Length: 32 minutes (8,191 words)

Honky-Tonk Man

“I called him Mr. Chuck. We did what families do: We carefully observed the borders of conversational terrain. The election of Obama, no. The best strategy for grilling buffalo burgers, yes.”

Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 5, 2017
Length: 13 minutes (3,279 words)

Old Woods and Deep

Compelled by a dearth of biographical material about novelist Cormac McCarthy, a fellow writer travels to Tennessee to try to sketch a portrait of this reclusive, beguiling author.

Source: Oxford American
Published: Sep 5, 2017
Length: 27 minutes (6,836 words)