I’ve had a longstanding love-frustration relationship with the Oxford American, “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing.” I love its eclecticism and its connection to Southern culture. I’m often frustrated with its dalliances with pretention and its penchant for going out of business.
I recently got a mailer inviting me to subscribe again, which briefly pissed me off: I was certain I was owed some back issues from my subscription to the last incarnation, but I later realized they had been fulfilled with a few issues of Paste. Worse, I’d apparently missed a year of the magazine.
But, the offer included starting with OA‘s tenth annual music issue, which always comes with an AMAZING CD — This year it was a double-disc with one of artists previously unvisited, and another of artists (but not songs) from previous editions.
The music issue forgives all: Great writing about Southern musicians and two discs of incredible music that I’ve mostly never heard before. I know some of the artists, but there are enough amazing performances from bands even I’ve never heard of that it always leads me down wonderful and unexpected rabbit holes. True, the OA team often finds the one diamond mined by an otherwise unremarkable act, but there are always a half-dozen new explorations begotten by an OA discovery.
And reading the magazine reminds me of why I’ve loved it — and why it’s one of the few mags I still want to read in print. (The current roster includes only OA, The New Yorker, and –ironically– Wired.)
So all is forgiven, and then some. I’ll spend this afternoon reading about these previosly hidden musical gems and the demise of one of my other favorite magazines while trying to come up with a copy of the one music issue I’ve missed.
I’ll also muse on an interesting sidenote — The OA appears to be following an ad-supported nonprofit model, something I’ve long written off as impractical, improbable and a bit naive. But some smart people are taking a similar tack in the local space. Do they know something I don’t?
An example of the great undiscovered from the OA disc:
Love… With Arthur Lee: “Everybody’s Got to Live”
…and the unexpected from an old fave:
Ella Fitzgerald: “Sunshine of Your Love” (live)
The greatest discovery I ever made via OA was Swamp Dogg:
Swamp Dogg: “Total Destruction to Your Mind”
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