- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The state of Mississippi’s DNA is rooted in almost every story in the new issue of the Oxford American.

The magazine’s 18th annual Southern Music Issue, dubbed “Visions of the Blues,” delves into Mississippi’s most treasured musical contribution to American culture - the blues.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/2hkgdSj ) the issue features stories on Jackson’s Malaco Records studio; music critic, blues scholar and former University of Mississippi professor Robert Palmer; guitarist-singer John Lee Hooker; and a long-form article on blues fandom in Tokyo, featuring singer-guitarist Steve Gardner of Pocahontas.

Oxford American Editor Eliza Borné said the state is an obvious touchstone for the genre and the magazine.

Borné, a Little Rock, Arkansas, native, said her memories of visiting the Mississippi Delta definitely sprang to mind while working on the issue.

“Sure, I remember going to the crossroads in Clarksdale and seeing live blues music during my visit. It was moving and educational,” Borné said.

Oxford American Managing Editor Maxwell George, who first floated the idea of an issue dedicated to the blues, said he had specific memories of seeing the Mississippi River for the first time in Memphis, as well as trips to Mississippi to visit various Blues Trail markers while working on the publication.

“I’m from Charlotte, so seeing the river for the first time and thinking about all that great Mississippi music were things going through my mind when I was working on this,” George said.

The roots of the actual magazine are firmly planted in Mississippi as well.

The Oxford American was founded in 1992 by former editor Marc Smirnoff in Oxford before moving to Arkansas in the early 2000s. In 2017 the magazine will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Borné, the magazine’s third editor, marked her one-year anniversary in that position in October.

The Southern Music Issue is also known for the CD that accompanies it. The “Visions of the Blues” CD features 23 songs, including tunes written by Mississippi blues legends Hooker, Willie Dixon, Charley Patton and Bobby Rush. George said the staff started out with 150 songs and eventually whittled it down to 23.

The new issue also features three different collectible covers celebrating three generations of blues musicians. John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt and Adia Victoria grace each of the different covers.

The Oxford American has a reputation of showcasing the writing of scribes with national profiles. This issue is no different, with bylines from the legendary Greil Marcus and music writers Ann Powers, Elijah Wald and Amanda Petrusich, as well as magazine essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan. Borné said she’s also very proud the issue features the bylines of writers who have never appeared in the magazine’s pages.

One of those new writers, Zandria F. Robinson, penned a memoir about growing up with a mother from the city (Memphis) and a father from the country (Glendora, Mississippi) and how blues singer Bobby Blue Bland soothed her father’s troubled soul.

Other highlights from the magazine include a story detailing the later years of Alabama blues belter Big Mama Thornton, an interview with Raitt and a profile of Arkansas Delta blues guitarist and singer CeDell Davis.

Borné said it was too early to talk about what the 2017 music issue may look like.

The new blues issue, out on newsstands now, will be available until the beginning of March.

___

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com


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