Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Oxford American, the ultra-cool magazine of Southern culture and literature is back, after a year hiatus. It's a little slicker, a little more self-consciously ironic than it used to be, but its heart is still in the right place, and it's still publishing some of the most interesting and compelling material around. This is a magazine for people who appreciate Dennis Covington (although sadly, it appears that his wife, Vicki, is no longer writing her fabluous column about spirituality for OA), the Red Clay Ramblers, Lee Smith, Hank Williams, John Edgerton, Alison Krauss, and Tennessee Williams. You don't have to be a Southerner to enjoy it, but it helps.

Run don't walk to your local bookstore or newstand and pick up the latest issue of Oxford American - it's the annual music issue and it comes with a bonus cd that's not to be missed. The magazine is chock full of interviews and articles about Southern musicians, from the canonized (Willie Nelson) to the undeservedly obscure (Johnny Darrell). The cd is a sampler of the best the region has to offer in a variety of genres and musical styles. It includes original "old-timey" music, as well as recent recordings by new bands; blues, jazz, rock, bluegrass, and country. Indicative of the sensibility behind the compilation is track #3, a cover of Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by the Del McCoury Band. It works like a charm, reminding us (like the Chieftan's recent collaborations with various country musicians) that the music of the American South is only a few generations removed from the traditional music of the British Isles.

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