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Music Review: Oxford American Magazine – The 11th Annual Southern Music Issue: True Soul & Other True Sounds

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Oxford American magazine is America’s best-kept secret. Both CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and NSA (National Security Agency) could take lessons. But OA’s trying to get publicity while CIA and NSA are doing the opposite. The 11th Annual Southern Music Issue should go a long, long way toward rectifying OA’s closely-held top secret status.

This year’s music issue of OA boasts a double-CD inclusion of some of the best original Southern music you’ll hear. Some of the musicians whose music is featured you’ll have heard of; most probably not. But that doesn’t make these unrecognized musicians any less deserving of national fame. Most of the 53 selections on this compendium are vintage, ranging from the 1940s onward. A few are from the 2000s.

A short introduction by Lucinda Williams is on Disc One, which is subtitled “Southern Masters.” You’ll hear selections from Barbara Lynn, Sonny Burgess, Bukka White, Memphis Slim, Gil Scott-Heron, and Feufollet, in addition to 20 others. Being a country blues fan, some of my favorites on this disc are Bukka White’s “Parchman Farm Blues (1940), and Andre Williams and “Cadillac Jack.”

Disc Two is subtitled “Arkansas Masters,” and features all Arkansans (Arkansas being the current home of the magazine), including Bobby Brown, Sister Ernestine Washington, Wayne Raney, Sleepy LaBeef (who’s often identified as Texan), The Gunbunnies, and 22 others. Two of my favorite cuts on this disc include the True Gospel Wymics doing “Oh Yes That’s Right (1987), and Wayne Jackson performing “It Happened in Tennessee (Part 2) (1973).

Accompanying the double-CD set is a nearly 200-page issue of the magazine. For those not in the know, Oxford American is one of America’s best magazines in many respects. It’s only published four times annually, but manages to pack in some of the best fiction and non-fiction writing around. The Annual Music Issue devotes the vast majority of the issue to coverage of the musicians it’s featuring.

Check out Oxford American magazine’s website for further information on this and all their issues, including their Best of the South DVD issue, which has short excerpts from a wide variety of film offerings.

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About Lou Novacheck