August 03, 2005

Hublet's Wednesday Review Corner--Oxford American Music Issue

Just got our latest issue of The Oxford American, the second since their most recent resurrection (BAW reviewed the Southern food issue in the spring, then threw the magazine away before I finished it – not that I would complain, of course). I must say they are 2 for 2 with two HR’s this year, perhaps because they decided to quit trying to be “The NewYorker-except-with-occasional-photographs-of-fields-and-shacks”. Yay for the OA! Anyway, this latest issue would be hard to screw up in any case, because it is the annual (except for those pesky non-publishing years) Southern music issue, complete with the expected eclectic group of songs on cd. This is probably the fifth such cd we’ve gotten from them, and each is a gem. There are 29 tracks this year, on what may be the best one yet. So far, here are my favorites from the ’05 collection (enclosed in the magazine if you buy it off the rack):

#4 – “Sally Jo” by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder –I haven’t heard a bad recording yet from these guys.

#13 “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” by Cowboy Jack Clement – If you know the original done by Johnny Cash, you know it is a little bubble-gummish compared to a lot of his work. Typical of Cash, he sang background vocals for Clement on this re-recording, which is played at a slightly slower pace and with stripped down instrumentation. Wow!– suddenly the song becomes something totally different and profound.

#15 “Symphonique #6” by Moondog – I haven’t read the article about ole’ Moondog yet, but he is bound to be interesting from the sounds of this instrumental piece. It is like a cross between Beethoven, Dixieland Jazz, and Tango music.

#20 “Piece of My Heart” by Erma Franklin, who was Aretha’s older sister, and who recorded this song a year before Janis Joplin. Unbelievably good, every bit as good as Joplin’s version. It’s not often (thankfully) you’ll catch me singing, out loud, words like, “Didn’t I make you feel, like yooooooouuuuuu were the only man?” But I can’t help myself with this one.

#27 “Suspicious Minds” (Live Recording) by Elvis. I’ve always liked Elvis without loving him. But this recording blows me away. After cutting the record a couple of weeks earlier, he sings it here during his Live in Las Vegas concert in a way that gives me chills – when he sings, “We’re caught in a trap” over and over again, I believe the hell out of him.

There is also good stuff from Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Winter, and Zora Neale Hurston (!) among others. And you shouldn’t miss a real gospel classic from 1950: “Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb”. Lawd Yes!

Posted by Big Arm Woman at August 3, 2005 04:11 PM

Now I really am chomping at the bit. Thanks, Husband of BAW. Went to Borders last night looking for this, but they still had the food issue. Maybe two good'uns in a row is reason to subscribe. The music issue is always worth the money.

Posted by: Brad K. at August 3, 2005 07:00 PM

Having lived in Oxford at the time of OA's birth, I'm always saddened by the inevitable decline of each incarnation. As always, I had high hopes for this version. I will admit that it is infinitely better than the last version, but unlike some other folks, I still don't think they're over their "pretensions".
Exhibit 1: The column by Kaye Gibbons in the first issue.
Exhibit 2: Almost all the food issue.
I'm sorry, but I really don't think a New Yorker food story about bratwurst would go on and on about Germany's crimes in WWII. It IS possible to write about Southern food without yet another serving of "the South's long history of oppression." The final blow, to me, was the absurd essay (by Jay McInerney, I think) on ice. Slavery was bad; oppression is bad; I get that. Let me eat my grits and drink my tea!
Maybe it's just me. I wish the OA all the luck.

Posted by: derek at August 4, 2005 04:01 PM


I can't really dispute any of your points (I didn't get to read the story on ice), but at least we're not seeing cheerleading cover stories on Wesley Freakin' Clark anymore. For now.

Judging from the letters to the editor they printed, the Kaye Gibbons essay did not go over well with a lot of folks, as it shouldn't have.

Obviously the magazine writing/publishing culture is full of the same type of smarmy-toad elitists that populate other artistic cultures. But they also seem to be the only ones interested in producing an endeavor like this, so we are kind of stuck. But only stuck to a point - if they lapse into the mode of Southern self-hatred, or the mode of "The South is cool, but oh, for it to be like New York!", then the readership will bail again.

Posted by: Husband of BAW at August 5, 2005 09:24 AM