Be sure to pick up the Oxford American‘s Eighth Annual Music Issue. As usual, the magazine is accompanied by a CD chock full of great music. The writerly line-up for this issue is stellar as well. Peter Guralnick, Tom Piazza, William Gay, Jack Pendarvis, Ron Rash, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Amanda Petrusich all appear in the issue’s pages. There’s even a comic strip written by J.E. Pitts, who you might remember from our interview last year.
Two pieces in particular jumped out at me. John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son and one of my favorite nonfiction writers, ponders the curious existence of a 1920’s band called The NuGrape Twins. And then, Bret Anthony Johnston pens an Ode to Southern Heavy Metal. After getting over a brief moment of frustration and jealousy (you see, I’ve been working on my own piece examing Southern music that eschews twang and high lonesome vocals, but, them’s the breaks of freelancing), I thoroughly enjoyed Johnston’s piece. He raises some strong points about the natural place of Southern heavy metal in the region’s music history.
“Maybe you’ve never heard of them,” Johnston writes. “Or maybe you’ve heard of them, but haven’t heard them because you prefer blues jams to mosh pits and those black jerseys kind of terrify you, and generally lead you to believe the songs are about the devil and drugs and murder and other existential mayhem, and you’ve decided not to waste your time listening. Which decision should possibly be reconsidered, because after all, what was Robert Johnson singing about?”
“Here’s the thing,” Johnston continues. “Southern Heavy Metal Is the blues… If blues music originally evolved from call-and-response field hollers, then Southern Heavy Metal is simply a louder call, a more deliberate and authoritative response, a holler that’s impossible to ignore.” Solid point there.
Good stuff abounds in this issue of the Oxford American, as always. So be sure to pick up your copy today.