Daily Record 1/24/11: The Oxford American Southern Music CD No. 12–various artists (2010)

In 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980, 2000s, Alabama, compilations, country, funk, gospel, rhythm and blues, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock, soul on January 25, 2011 at 4:03 am

In late 2008, my friend Ed Whitelock (the Willie Nile fan from a few posts back on this blog) suggested to his music-loving friends that we pick up the just-released “music issue” of Oxford American magazine. I picked it up and have always considered it an excellent investment. The magazine was accompanied by a two-disc CD set featuring many of the artists mentioned in the issue and in previous music issues of Oxford American.

Two years later brings us the latest excellent issue of the Oxford American Music Issue magazine/CD set and this time Ed doesn’t need to merely recommend it–he’s a contributor, having written an article on Sammy Salvo, a young singer who recorded the nuclear era young love anthem, “A Mushroom Cloud,” in 1961. As one of the co-authors, along with David Janssen,  of Apocalypse Jukebox–The End of the World in American Popular Music, Ed has some experience writing about people who sing about the end of the world.

Since receiving this latest issue of the Oxford American Music Issue in the mail last month, I’ve been a little bit too busy to sit down and read the magazine cover-to-cover, but the CD has been a frequent companion to me in the car. It is one hell of a cool collection of songs that features “a magnificent variety of musical superstars from the state of Alabama.” The songs were originally released sometime between 1948 and just last year.

Major artists from Alabama, such as Hank Williams and, well, Alabama, are not featured on this CD, which is fine, since one of the purposes of the magazine/CD is to highlight less-heralded musicians from across the wide fields of rock, soul, country, gospel, hip-hop and so much more.  The result, for an adventurous music fan, is 27-track mix CD that will educate you even as its blowing your mind.

And, as I’ve been listening to the CD, I’ve grown curious about many of the songs: who is this Phosphorescent, whose 2010 track, “(It’s Hard to Be Humble) When You’re From Alabama,” is the most recent song on the disc?; what does “Abalabip” (by Eddie Cole & His Gang, from 1950) mean?; how did Odetta pull off a Dylan cover (“The Times They Are a-Changing,” from 1965) that I really like, when I don’t like much in the way of Dylan covers?; and, wow, is this guy Rev. Fred Lane (“Rubber Room”) serious?

Fortunately, now that the holidays are over, I have some time to read the magazine more closely, which is where I’ll find the answers to all of these questions and more. Each song on the CD is represented by an article written by one of many respected contributors including, of course, my friend Ed.

Look for the Oxford American Music Issue in bookstores, but you can also order it from the OA website as well (http://www.oxfordamerican.org/).


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