Sunday, December 22, 2013

That's What I Like About the South

It’s not what I’d call a holiday tradition -- it’s more like an end-of-the-year ritual for me -- but it’s definitely something I look forward to doing every December.

That’s when I dig into Oxford American’s Annual Southern Music Issue.

If you’re a music geek or you’re looking for a last-minute gift for the music geek in your life, hustle over to your local newsstand and pick up a copy. Thirteen bucks gets you a lot of great writing and plenty of top-shelf music.

This year’s theme is the “The Music of Tennessee,” and the tie that binds the essays and recordings this time around appears to be the zip codes of recording studios, not the birthplaces of the artists who cut at them. (Folks like B.B. King, Charlie Rich, Al Green, Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Ann Peebles waxed some classic sides in Tennessee, but they weren’t born in the Volunteer State.)

If you’d enjoy pumping quarters into a jukebox that allows you to jump from Isaac Hayes to Connie Smith to Big Maybelle to Big Star, you’ll enjoy the 2-CD set that comes with the magazine.

As for the writing, Oxford American always keeps the bar high. Whether it’s prose penned by music writers like Joe Nick Patoski and Robert Gordon or by music makers like Rosanne Cash and Jim Dickinson, you’ll read and re-read a lot of these pieces. (I keep back issues of OA’s Southern Music Issue on one of my bookshelves, and I regularly return to that musical well.)

Thirteen bucks not only gets you fifty songs, it gets you session bassist Norbert Putnam’s account of playing on a sham 1970 recording session that Elvis Presley set up to fool his wife, Priscilla.

Elvis may be dead, but print isn’t and neither are CDs. Go buy the issue.

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