As it is December, and now our tradition, the most recent (and 22nd Annual) Music issue of the Oxford American Magazine has arrived at Highlife. The focus of this magazine remains on the sounds and stories in the deep river of soulful music that continues to flow from the people of southern United States. This year the perspective remains broad, and both backward and forward looking.
On the one hand this issue is a “Greatest Hits” of the previous 21 issues, with Guest Editor Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) choosing 10 of her personal favourite articles from previous OA Music issues – covering artists from Howlin’ Wolf to Anne Peebles and Thelonious Monk.
At the same time, there are also a number of new articles on artists as diverse as Rosetta Tharpe (by Roseanne Cash); Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood (by his son and Drive-by-Trucker Patterson Hood); and New Orleans jazz legend Ellis Marsalis (by New Orleans NPR veteran radio host Gwen Thompkins).
There are also a few changes with how this issue actually brings you music. The CD is now gone and has been replaced with links to 11 (!) online Spotify playlists. Each playlist has been curated by an artist, or writer, with personal connections to this diverse and influential music (including Brittany Howard, Roseanne Cash, Adia Victoria, and authors Silas House and Jason Kyle Howard, among other). Instead of being a mixtape from a single eclectic aunt or uncle it is a series of mixtapes from people who live with this music in many different, but very specific, places. There are 180 songs here and over 12 hours of music.
Amazing as always, the now mostly female editors at Oxford American, are changing with the times, while still helping us find new ways to be connected to this powerful music and the stories behind it.
At $18, this year’s 22nd annual music issue of OA, remains the perfect gift for that person in your life with a hunger for new sounds, and an appreciation of the history that they are informed by.
Get your copy before they sell out.