Box Full of Letters from Issue #12
Please give Mike McGonigal a regular column. His essay on Harry Smith (and Alan Lomax, and Richard Davies, and Camper Van Beethoven, and Eugene Chadbourne, and Yo La Tengo, and Eleventh Dream Day, and many more) [ND #10, July-August 1997) is in exactly the spirit the album your magazine was named for signifies. Plus he’s damned entertaining.
What’d I Say:
An appeal from Italy
I’m a new subscriber and I’m very keen on the new roots-rock groups. I have many CDs of these bands (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, the Jayhawks, Blue Mountain, etc.). They are wonderful CDs, but, according to me, they also have a great limit. I mean, in the CD-booklet there aren’t the lyrics. I think that they are very important for who, like me, isn’t American or English and doesn’t understand American very well.
It’s very difficult for me to try to understand what these groups sing in their songs.
My remark wants to be an appeal, also because in Italy, CDs are very expensive, especially for a student like me. (One CD costs about 22 American dollars.)
I think it’s not so difficult to do a complete CD booklet. Thank you very much for your attention!
‘Trite and trivial banalities’
With all due respect to you, your publication and critic David Cantwell, I must tell you it has been quite some time since I have been subjected to a CD review as unfair and vicious as the one Cantwell penned in the September-October issue of No Depression concerning Dwight Yoakam’s Under The Covers project. It was not well-thought-out and appeared to be the work of a man who really had not listened to the work in question. While I expect such trite and trivial banalities from the mainstream pop-oriented music press and the Nashville Music Machine, I do not anticipate such vapid reviews from any of the No Depression writers.
Each of us is entitled to our own opinion; as a writer I uphold that principle regardless of the circumstance. However, what I found so truly shocking, unnerving and disturbing about Cantwell’s critique was his total lack of understanding of the artist and the material. Obviously, Cantwell should spend some time learning about his subject before he goes lambasting a man of substance and artistic refinement who has proven himself time and time again to be above the rabble that has brought the C&W and American roots music industry to a new all-time low.
I respect Cantwell’s right to dislike any CD placed before him, but I do not support the tact he seemingly took in writing this particular review, which lacked an intelligent foundation.
Finally, I found Under The Covers to be a refreshing change of pace for both Yoakam and his fans. As a contemporary of Yoakam’s, his musical experiences mirror mine and I appreciate the fact that he took the time and care to harken back to many of the songs that helped to form the musical personalities of an entire generation. Believe it or not, there was a time when radio, and the music business, was a wide open country that allowed Johnny Horton, Cab Calloway, Hank Sr. and the Rolling Stones to roam freely next to the Clash, the Temptations, Jimmie Rodgers and Them. It was a healthy, invigorating period in America’s musical history and artists of quality, such as Yoakam, were allowed to be creative and broad in scope. Cantwell’s review spits in the eye of this tradition.
I have to wonder if perhaps the alternative C&W and American roots music press has become infested with under-educated, under-experienced fans who fancy themselves to be writers, critics and chroniclers, but who are, in reality, more akin to the tabloid supermarket press who tragically hunted a beautiful young woman down in the streets of Paris.
Los Angeles, California
Editor’s note: Just for the record, David Cantwell pleads innocent to all charges of complicity in the death of Princess Diana.
The last word
In your issue No. 9 [May-June 1997], Lou Fusaro claims that it was Black Jack Mulligan who was famous for the “heart punch.”
Then in issue No. 19 [July-August 1997], Jonathan Gelperin wrote in that it was Big John Stud who was the “master of the devastating heart punch.
Actually, neither is correct. It was my ex-girlfriend Michelle who perfected the devastating heart punch.
–Down For The Count
Kansas City, Missouri