In the fall, backstage at the Ryman doing my duty for the Americana Music Association's Honors & Awards Show (thanks again to Dick Clark for the cumbersome name) I ran into an old friend, which is the whole point of going to the thing anyhow. He looked at the t-shirt I was wearing, black because I was working backstage, and at the No Depression logo on my chest. He smiled, briefly. "Get over it, Grant," Jim said.

I hadn't really considered my wardrobe choice. It was a black t-shirt. I have rather a lot of those, and now live in a climate which does not invite the wearing of black t-shirts save for a few months; it's either too hot or too cold. And, inevitably, I ended up with a goodly handful of ND wardrobe options, which I still wear some of the time, mostly to confuse those who didn't know me then. Which is to say everybody I'm not related to.

He had a point, of course. It has been rather a long time since I was co-publisher of the magazine this website keeps in memory, and just that same amount of time since I quit being an art director and somebody who wrote about music for money. Now I write for my own amusement in a room smaller than my old office into which I still struggle to cram the accumulation of several decades of obsessions with music and design and typography.

We moved into this house almost two years ago and I am still struggling to unpack. Downsizing is not in my nature. So it goes. My problem, not yours.

Three boxes on the floor contain framed No Depression covers. They used to ring my old office, but somehow when the logo changed I ran out of room or frames or something, and quit mounting them. Which is funny, because I like the new logo much better, and think most of those covers are better designed. Once, at a different house, back in Nashville, a German film crew came by. I think to ask me about Nirvana, but it doesn't matter. One of them looked at the covers on the wall, a smaller number then, a habit I picked up from my days at The Rocket, where our Seattle office was also ringed with the magazine's covers as a way of remembering (the good and the bad). "Doesn't that seem arrogant to you?" she asked. I thought it an odd question, wonder still if maybe it was a translation issue. It's a way of knowing, I tried to explain, but that wasn't what they'd come for and so I'm the only one in the room still dwelling on the question.

Today, and not because it happens to be New Year's Day and I've sworn off football, but because it happens to be a day off and this happens to be the next thing on my list of things to do so as to see the nice carpet on the floor, I began hanging a few of those covers. Nine, I had promised myself, though the boxes of seven-inch singles sitting atop the CD cases mean the bottom row will be difficult to see until I reckon with that particular madness. Somehow in the move I've thrown out or misplaced the flats the printer used to send me for each issue, and so having not framed the new logo -- the last three years of our publishing history, I'm going to be obliged to sacrifice a couple from my stock of back issues in the attic. Or to do without.'s what I've selected, for the moment. Which I share because...because I have time to type, I suppose. Because it amuses me. Because perhaps you will have your own opinions, though I promise only to read them politely and not to alter my arrangement.

Top row, then. Ralph Stanley (photograph by Jim Herrington), which is autographed. Nickel Creek (photograph by Kristina Marie Krug) in the center, framed by our printer to celebrate our tenth anniversary, and so slightly oversized in its mat). And, facing, Buddy Miller (photograph by Thomas Petillo), our final issue. Also autographed; that one's a fill issue Peter sent me at some point, for which I should again publicly thank him.

Middle row. Loretta Lynn, my Warhol crop from a promo photo because we couldn't get a usable image. Signed. Jay Farrar (illustration by Glen Hilario), because Glen should be famous, if only in my back office. Dolly Parton (the folk art construction by Tim Shawl), also signed, by way of proving she had a good sense of humor.

Bottom row, when I can get it hung. Johnny Cash (photograph by Charles Peterson, whose photos were among the best Rocket covers, as well), Miranda Lambert (photograph by James Minchin; not a photograph I assigned, but it gave me an opportunity to riff of my old Rocket days). And then, on the right, probably Rosanne Cash (photograph again by Jim Herrington, who really was the best among our best), or Solomon Burke (photographed by Jim Herrington). Depending on what mood I'm in, I suppose.

Which obliges me to leave out Tim Shawl's "String Theory" cover, which I love, but which also contains within the note I mostly wrote but we all signed explaining that the magazine was about to cease publication.

And so, yes, I still miss it.

I understand that it is over and done, that my days writing about music and designing magazines are over and done. Maybe this other thing I'm writing will be worth publishing some day, if it ever gets finished. Maybe not.

But let me say one more time how indebted I am to Peter Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild, my co-publishers, to every single one of our contributors, and especially to those who took the time to read those 75 print issues. It was fun while it lasted.

Views: 570

Tags: alden, covers, magazine

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on January 1, 2013 at 3:29pm

Always happy to read what you write Grant.  I haven't thought of this song for ages but it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read this.

(For anyone unfamiliar with Julie Miller (Buddy Miller's wife) be sure and check out her album "Broken Things")

Here is a link to the page in the ND archive with a grid view of all the covers from the 75 print issues of ND. (And here's a carousel view for those who prefer that)

 Would love to hear what everyone's favorites are?

I love all of our offspring so it's hard to choose favorites, but if I had to pick mine are:

#5 Wilco- which is a photo of Jeff Tweedy photographed in front of the now long gone Tweedy and Pop hardware store in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

#23 Buddy and Julie Miller- I'm a sucker for anything vintage and I love the warmth and depth of the photo and the way he is looking at her so adoringly, also of note, this was our first perfect bound issue.

#32 Billy Joe Shaver- Love the juxtaposition of him in front of the photo of Jesus with fingers and lack thereof

#42 Johnny Cash- Great Charles Peterson photo. Lost Highway used this cover for a promotional poster which is still available in our store either unsigned or signed by renowned grunge photographer Charles Peterson.

#69 Miranda Lambert- I love the punk rock energy of the photo, the way her hair is swirling. I also like pushing limits and both the photo and the cover subject did that in many ways. Back to my love of all things vintage, I also like that her name on the cover is created using a vintage label maker.

(Not to get all salesey on you but we've got a back issue sale running so if you want to check out Grant's handiwork live and in the flesh now is the time!)

Anyone else?  What are your favorite covers?

Comment by Grant Alden on January 2, 2013 at 10:01am

Lest that post seem too maudlin, let me add that the walls surrounding me also include two original scratchboard newspaper illustrations of pro wrestling, a POG silkscreened poster promoting Southern Culture on the Skids (the image which led me down the path to opening the short-lived Vox Populi Gallery), a Michael Finster vision of hell, and a large Cultural Revolution poster of Chairman Mao. Along with a Leroy Allman painting about heroin addiction, a small Paul Friedrick, a couple Mose Tollivers, a handful of Calvin Cooper carvings, and an Andre the Giant bobblehead.

Comment by Daniel T on January 2, 2013 at 10:43am

Grant, maudlin or otherwise, you're always a good read.

My favorites, without repeating any by Kyla, like #23, #32 , are not just about the photos, but the sayings/lyrics attributed with each artist.

#16 Lucinda Williams- black n white  "live" photo, a bit haunting. (Lucinda had 3 covers!)

        "I just wanna live the life I please, I don't want no enemies".

#19 Don Williams- Grey and weathered, but looking satisfied?

        " I will not surrender at this wise and tender age".

#35 Gillian Welch- Looking defiant.

       "I'm gonna do it even if it doesn't pay".

#46 the DBT's - "Live" photo, with Patterson Hood looking like a man possessed.

        "It's gets so hard to keep between the ditches when the roads wind the way they do."

#47 Lyle Lovett- "I live in my own mind, ain't nothing but a good time"

#52 Dave Alvin- Looking like he's staring into a future he already sees.

        "You give your dreams away as you get older. Oh, but I never gave up mine."

Hell, they're all my favorites. The covers were most definitely art.

But what was between the front and back covers was absolutely priceless


Comment by Easy Ed on January 3, 2013 at 5:08am

This is the one I've always liked the best. Number ten. I think because this one and a lot of the earlier editions of ND, reminded me so much of Sing Out! magazine from the sixties. Almost seemed like it was the next stone in the path.

@Grant: Didn't it just kill you to have to put a UPC code on the covers?

Comment by Jack on January 3, 2013 at 8:06am

# 17 - a fine less is more approach

#36 - like the (50's era?) font used in Jay's name  against a semi abstract drawing

#56 - took a few looks to see the chair not touching the floor

Were I you I'd be hanging a few covers in my office as well.  Not for anyone's benefit but my own.  Not just out of pride, mostly sentimentality.  I read the magazine from the start, subscribed for the bulk of those years, and like many have said, I still miss it, despite how damn fun this website is.

Comment by Danielle on January 3, 2013 at 8:13pm

Oh, pish tosh at "get[ting] over it." I still tell people I wrote for ND and they're still impressed.

Comment by TenLayers on January 4, 2013 at 11:01am

I too, love that Billy Joe cover...and the Kasey Chamber cover...  All warm tones and with the back arcing over like it does, face turned toward the camera.

When the magazine was under going it's final gasps I emailed someone in the office suggesting you do a large poster of all the covers and sell it.

Comment by Alan Wagman on January 4, 2013 at 12:58pm

55-57 make a darn fine trio.  All 3 from the era I was reading ND.

Comment by Jon Itkin on January 4, 2013 at 1:48pm

Goddam it I miss that magazine. Thanks for thinking it up and keeping it going as long as you did, Grant. One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing a positive review of one of my albums printed in there....courtesy of Rick Cornell. The second-to-last issue, I think. 

Comment by Hal Bogerd on January 4, 2013 at 6:32pm

I can't say I regret that I passed them on to a friend after reading them but why the hell didn't I ask for them back!!


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.