Box Full of Letters from Issue #43
The Instigator, indeed
Time for a reality check for Paul Kloss, who extends his loathing for Rhett Miller’s solo debut The Instigator to Rhett’s clothes, hair and indeed Rhett himself [Box Full of Letters, ND #42, Nov.-Dec. 2002]. This is the kind of knee-jerk, reactionary bullshit that, sadly, is often spewed from the mouths of conservative fans of ‘roots’ and retro music. He is furious that Miller would try and go it alone, in the process ditching the Old 97’s twang, in an attempt to gain new listeners, and his rant stops just short of asking for Miller’s execution for high treason.
First off, I think the album is wonderful, a real power-pop gem, but I’m not really writing to argue the album’s merits. I wanted to take a minute to point out to Kloss (not that he asked or anything) that he is seriously deluded if he thinks this album is rampantly commercial; have you actually listened to what they play on commercial radio?? It might get some play at AAA with a (probably vain) hope of crossing over to Hot AC, but it won’t be cracking the Top 40 anytime soon (it deserves to, but that’s another argument/letter and tilting at windmills isn’t my style).
Picking on the guy for his clothes, where he chooses to live, even his choice of wife, is childish and mean-spirited. Rhett can’t do any right by you, can he Paul? Apart from making another disc with the Old 97’s in the approved (by you) manner, that is.
— Ian Gilchrist
“Wouldn’t you marry a model?”
Would someone tell ND #42 letter-writer Paul Kloss from Chicago that college is over and the Old 97’s aren’t playing down at the Blue Note for a $10 cover? I love their music, but their intelligent Texas frat-boy rock had its time and Rhett Miller can do what he wants. Besides, like Jeff Tweedy or Ryan Adams, he is the band. Talented sidemen are important, but interchangeable (see: Jay Bennett). And The Instigator is just a Murry Hammond song or two away from Satellite Rides. Miller has the voice, the songwriting, the stage presence, and yes, the looks. Come on, wouldn’t you marry a model too if you could?
— Jeff Fister
St. Louis, Missouri
Never mind the collar color
Scott Murrie has panned Heather Myles without having heard her because she is a “frustrated trust fund jockey” [Box Full of Letters, ND #42, Nov.-Dec. 2002]. I am a blue-collar hourly wage earner and a Heather Myles fan. Let’s face it, most of the music we listen to does not come from people who grew up poor. Gram Parsons was a trust fund kid. Rosanne Cash, Bobby Bare Jr., and Larry McMurtry have famous and presumably rich parents. Guy Clark I believe is the son of an attorney.
Shania Twain was raised in extreme poverty. Does that validate her music? Unfortunately, the underclass is not always enlightened to what real music is. Woody Guthrie’s fan base wasn’t migrant farm workers as much as it was educated Northeastern intellectuals.
— Frank Motley
Quest for the Holy Greil
I was doing some yard work with Alison Moorer’s fine new Miss Fortune CD playing and I stopped, listened, and thought, “This is a fine, fine record.”
Little did I know that she had an “imperious” alto that was “incontrovertibly Southern” with “syncretism” harking back to 60s AM radio and “Anglophilic flourishes” that pervade. Et cetera.
I hate to dogpile on Bill Friskics-Warren after the same issue published a well-considered take on his Solomon Burke review [Box Full of Letters, ND #41, September-October 2002], and I certainly admire his way with words, but all I can ask as a faithful ND subscriber is that we dispense with the Greil Marcus impersonations and the namedropping that dilutes the review to the point that I can’t tell if he liked the record or not.
As for me, yard work complete, I’ve listened to Miss Fortune dozens of times and still find it a fine, fine record.
— Ted Potrikus
Albany, New York
A political departure
I have been a fan of Steve Earle’s since Guitar Town was released. As I delved more into his music, I realized I was a devoted fan despite, and not because of, his radical leftist views and opposition to the death penalty.
Similarly, I’ve been able to roll my eyes and ignore your magazine’s occasional left-wing, patronizing comments. “It’s ultimately about the music,” I’ve said to myself, just like my love of Steve Earle’s body of work.
Of late, though, I’ve noticed the tenor of your political commentary becoming more barbed, less subtle. Issue #42 did it for me. A letter to the editor made reference to “our un-elected, failed-oilman president.”
Bill Friskics-Warren couldn’t help himself in the Johnny Cash piece. He projected an imagined opposition to U.S./Iraq policy into Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag”, kept coming back to Johnny’s social-justice stance, and used the word “dialectic” or “dialectical” (could there not be a nod to Marx and Engels in there?) a half-dozen times.
But it was Grant Alden’s interview with Steve Earle that did it for me. First, the blow-up over “John Walker’s Blues” was months old by the time issue #42 came out; I can’t think of any reason, other than grinding his own axe, that Alden would think the item was timely, or even newsworthy.
Then, Alden patronizingly intoned in his introduction, “Still, some would prefer that politics would not intrude here.” Actually, Grant, if you ever bothered to even acknowledge that there might be another perspective, that would probably do.
What took the cake, though, was the classic strawman job Alden did in the interview. He obviously agreed with Earle; instead of actually asking tough questions, however, he set up lampoons of perceived conservative positions, so Steve could knock them into next week. As a conservative, I’ve always held my nose on the politics and loved the musical content of No Depression. When you start insulting my intelligence — with an interview with my favorite artist, no less — I’ve had enough.
I’m under no illusions that you’ll actually print a letter with an opposing point of view. Thank you in advance, however, for canceling my subscription.
— Kevin Broughton
Black & white, and read all over
I want to let you know how I appreciated your November-December Johnny Cash issue! Being a Johnny fan for quite some time, when I saw this wonderful issue, I could not contain myself! I sent e-mails to all of the Johnny fans I know so they, too, could purchase this great issue! In our area, your magazine is difficult to find. I bought all the issues I could find, but just could not find enough copies!
Always looking for Johnny Cash articles, I hope you will be having more of Johnny in future issues!
— Helen Niele
Got a letter to send? Opposing points of view welcome, as always. E-mail us at email@example.com, or go the postal route at No Depression, Box Full of Letters, 2 Morse Circle, Durham, NC 27713.