The Oxford American highlights the music of Tennessee


I’m a big fan of magazines. Sometimes I need my reading in small convenient bursts, and magazines are just the ticket. When reading an issue of a magazine or newspaper on the Internet I find I will just skim the articles or only read the sections that jump out at me. If I have a physical copy in front of me, though, I am likely to read it cover to cover.  Here at The Urbana Free Library we have an extensive collection of interesting print magazines, including my current favorite, The Oxford American.

The Oxford American bills itself as “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing” and the first issue went to press in 1992. You definitely don’t have to be from the South to appreciate The Oxford American’s literary offerings. It attracts a wide range of talented contributors and has a little bit of everything, with features on food, travel, history, fiction, poetry, photography, music, movies, and more. Perhaps my favorite thing about The Oxford American, though, is the music issue it puts out once a year. Each issue focuses on the music of a different state in the South, with the December 2013 issue focusing on the music of Tennessee.

The Tennessee compilation has quickly become my favorite so far, which is perhaps not surprising given that Tennessee history is full of two of my favorite types of music: soul and country.  Blues and rock round out the mix, which has been on heavy rotation at my house since it came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. It features some big name artists (Johnny Cash, Bessie Smith, Al Green, Big Star) as well as the more obscure (The Prisonaires, a doo wop group formed in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in the 1950s). It also mixes older music (some recorded as far back as the 1920s) with current bands working in Tennessee today, and the magazine issue features background information for each track. Many of the artists were new to me, so now I have a list of new music to seek out, which is always exciting.

The Tennesee music issue of The Oxford American can be found in our magazine section now for in library use, and you can place holds on the cd now through the CU catalog!