Apart from Metro itself, one of my favorite magazines is undoubtedly The Oxford American — and the highpoint of the year for The OA is undoubtedly its annual music issue. (I’m not alone in thinking this; previous music issues have won National Magazine Awards and other distinguished honors.) Since the late ’90s, the magazine has each year produced a CD exploring the South’s rich musical landscape and long and diverse heritage. Last year brought a double CD, the first sampling music from throughout the entire region and a second devoted to Arkansas musicians; this year continues that latter trend, with a single CD putting a new state — Alabama — on the turntable (so to speak).
In the midst of being bludgeoned by holiday music over the last month or two, I couldn’t wait to slide in this year’s disc — and I was amply rewarded. The beauty of each of these CDs is how suddenly and effortlessly it jumps from one genre to another or one era to the next. The K-Pers’ “The Red Invasion” (1968), for example, is followed by a song from twenty years earlier — eons away stylistically: the folksy “New Mule Skinner Blues” by The Maddox Brothers and Rose. Elsewhere, Jim Bob & the Leisure Suits capture the early-’80s punk-rock vibe with “Gangland Wars” before giving way to some country blues from Dan Pickett in “99 1/2 Won’t Do.”