Box Full of Letters from Issue #44
The politics of ranting:
A dissenting view
So, Steve Earle needs a year off from work. Tsk, tsk. Most of us working stiffs are lucky to have maybe three weeks of vacation a year after fifteen years of service…and for good measure good ol’ Steve also condescends to tell us that we can’t make our own choices as adults and as human beings and need someone like Earle to make all our choices for us because he’s up on his perch dispensing brilliant insights on us. Well, well, well, we should be so grateful.
I have been a subscriber to your magazine for about two years and share the sentiments of Mr. Kevin Broughton [Box Full Of Letters, ND #43, Jan.-Feb. 2003], who has had it with your publication, and for good reason. I harbored no illusions as an initial subscriber to your publication about the distinctly left stance you would take. I even renewed my subscription last year despite Grant Alden’s irresponsible commentary in the issue following the 9-11 terrorist attacks blaming the U.S. for provoking this mass slaughter and indicating we, the U.S., will be responsible for more retaliations.
I really regretted my renewal when I saw Mr. Alden make a lame defense of Earle’s “John Walker Blues” on CNN by describing Walker-Lindh as some kind of an “alternative patriot.” A man who knew many Americans and foreigners would be slaughtered for the crime of going to work is given a hero’s treatment by Earle and Alden. Fortunately Mr. Alden was exposed to “alternate viewpoints” and had his clock cleaned during the debate.
In addition, Mr. Broughton was right in condemning Grant Alden’s article on Earle, which redefined puff-piece. At least Greta Van Sustern on her program was asking tough, but fair questions of Earle. Greta may be on a “conservative” show that specializes in largely legal issues, but her questions were far more challenging, insightful, and far better than Grant Alden’s.
No Depression’s vision of a comprehensive view of alt-country and neo-roots music is outstanding. I was influenced to see many an artist that even the best radio stations in my area never air. I just wish you would show more responsibility.
Please cancel my subscription, posthaste. Thank you.
— Gene Noll
[Ed. note: The transcript from the CNN interview shows that Alden never used the phrase “alternative patriot” which Noll attributes to him. Alden’s editorial in ND #36 read, in part, “…the causes and effects of Middle Eastern terrorism are enormously complex, and do not easily reduce to the scripted black-and-white of soundbites.”]
An assenting view
Congratulations! As a magazine you have come of age. I remember the days when the No Depression letters page was pretty slim. Some of the letters, in fact, were of this variety:
“I wasn’t sure if this was the correct address to send my check to. I hope it is. And by the way, you have a great magazine. — Annie Fan, Anywhere, Oregon.”
Well, now you have subscribers canceling their subscriptions (Kevin Broughton, ND #43, Jan.-Feb. 2003) and presenting you with detailed attacks on your politics, which he believes to be too far left. That’s progress! At least he reads you closely.
As for myself, I especially enjoyed the Steve Earle article. I have been a fan of his for years and had picked up on the politics in his music, but had no idea that he was so outspoken or such an activist. I applaud his courage, and I applaud yours because, even though the magazine has always been primarily about the music, you’re not afraid of political opinions. That separates you from the pabulum.
And by the way, you have a great magazine.
— Chris Barnes
The music, not the money
This letter in response to the letter sent in by Mr. 93 Ford Econoline [ND #42, Nov.-Dec. 2002] and his personal blast toward Heather Myles based solely on the No Depression article.
First of all, allow me to remind you that this is a musical forum. It is obvious that your discontent is more in line with your own socio-economic condition rather than the fine musicianship and songwriting of Heather Myles. I thought you might have tried to argue that her “trust fund” life (as you put it) conflicts with the songs she writes. Even if you had, it wouldn’t be accurate.
I find it intriguing that songwriters and performers come from many various backgrounds. The fact that she chooses to live in many different places can only add to the writing experience. How she funds that lifestyle is irrelevant. Heartache is not exclusive to those who live in the back of a van. Should you choose to listen to her, you will find that many of her songs express pain and sorrow of a lost love or two.
You were right on one fact. Merle Haggard did react to her after a good listen. He agreed to record a duet with Heather. Ask yourself how many duets Merle has done in the past. This alone should point to her talent.
With your line of reasoning, you may want to steer that rig of yours well clear of other brilliant singer songwriters, such as Gillian Welch for example; she is from Beverly Hills.
I respect your opinion, but given the forum here, please keep it topical rather than personal.
— Christopher H. Donahugh
Arguing her case
I was dismayed to note the absence of Neko Case’s Blacklisted from your ND Top 20 of 2002 [Field Reportings, ND #43, Jan.-Feb 2003]. Her follow-up to the stunning Furnace Room Lullaby is a haunting, heartfelt and elegant bit of brilliance. Numerous critics have included it in their year-end top 10 or top 20 lists, regardless of genre. I hoped that on a list drawn from a specific category — even one as sketchily defined as “alt-country” — Blacklisted would make the cut.
You can’t say that the record is “too country,” not with the Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton among your choices. And you can’t say it’s “too alt” for a list that features Wilco and Springsteen.
So, no feature story on one of alt-country’s most engaging performers after the release of her most critically acclaimed record, and now no mention of said record in your year-end Top 20? What gives, ND? Why has Neko Case been blacklisted in these pages?
— Patrick Donnelly
[Ed. note: Blacklisted did finish #23 in the year-end voting by our contributing editors, for what it’s worth.]
Thank you for the wonderful article by Peter Cooper on Kieran Kane [ND #43, Jan.-Feb. 2003]. No Depression continues to impress with articles and interviews with artists who deserve higher recognition and acclaim. Kieran (and Kevin Welch and the other Dead Reckoners) have long been favorites of mine. It seems like just last week that I was sitting a few feet from Kieran and Kevin at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia (really September 2000). They swapped songs, traded licks, told jokes and some wonderful stories, entertained requests and generally delighted everyone present that evening with one helluva show. Thanks again!
— Steve Hullinger
The circle of influence
Been diggin’ your magazine since the second issue. (Couldn’t locate #1.) Loved the piece on King Records by Barry Mazor [ND #42, Jan.-Feb. 2003]. Another great example of how we all influence each other. It’s more exciting to my ears when all people work together. Perhaps we can all take a page from the past to create the future.
— Duane Jarvis
East Nashville, Tennessee
Got letters? Send ’em along, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org — be sure to include your postal address — or by regular-mail to No Depression, Box Full Of Letters, 2 Morse Circle, Durham, NC 27713.