Box Full of Letters from Issue #45
Stuck inside of Spokane:
With the political blues again
Recently I was stuck in the Spokane airport when my plane did not go out, and so I had a lot of time on my hands to ponder why a No Depression reader would be so upset about the politics of Steve Earle and the perceived political leanings of your magazine.
On one level, this is about how we relate to the artists. Some people identify with them, hold them up as role models or heroes. And for these people, the artists must correspond to the needed values of heroes in all their shadings. Perfection is hard to find. The poor artists become the prisoners of success, because if they change and mature, the audience will reject them.
I feel differently. I’m interested in the views of the musicians on topics of life, love, and politics. I’m interested in music partly because it brings into my life some different perspectives. I hold no illusions that the musicians are perfect, and I accept them as heroes nonetheless.
On another level, this is about how we relate to the magazine. Most likely, while I have been unaware of any particular political bias, you do have one. A hallmark of liberalism is an openness to a broad range of ideas, and of that you are guilty. At the same time, half the musicians you write about are probably redneck conservatives and the other half are pretty-boy urban liberals! I read this magazine not because I agree with you or them, but because I want to hear about what is going on, and I want to buy the CDs of the rednecks and the pretty boys, and I want to go to the shows and experience all the sound, the people, the lyrics…the whole messy humanness of this music.
BTW, I’ll be renewing my subscription.
— Eric Petersen
I read with interest that Gene Noll cancelled his subscription due to you needing to “show more responsibility” regarding Grant Alden and Steve Earle’s comments/editorial [ND #42 and #36].
Forgive my ignorance (as a Scot, not a U.S. citizen) but isn’t a major part of the U.S. constitution based on “the right to free speech”? I realize that Mr. Noll obviously isn’t a Steve Earle fan, given the first paragraph of his letter, but what else did he expect from Steve Earle? If he doesn’t like the artist and his viewpoint/opinion, then why not skip the article as opposed to reading something that he knows he’ll disagree with?
My opinion is that everyone is entitled to their personal point of view (even Mr. Noll!) and as such everyone has the right to express it, even if it is diametrically opposed my own. However, canceling a subscription because he doesn’t agree with an opinion or two seems a little blinkered and immature.
I have just renewed my subscription (as well as getting one for my brother) and am very glad I did, as the price is worth the small ads alone!
— Graeme Roberts
[Ed. note: We received a similar letter from Julian Brown of Brighton, United Kingdom.]
Daring to think different
There may be hope for this “music” magazine yet. Thanks for printing Kevin Broughton’s letter from ND #43 and Gene Noll’s from ND #44. I, too, thought of canceling my subscription on more than one occasion and still may yet. Unlike most liberals who accept “diversity” only if the views expressed are exactly the same as their own, at least you bother to actually print an opposing viewpoint. Sort of anyway. I notice “Ed. note” accompanies each of the above mentioned readers letters as if you have to get yet one more pot shot in. [Ed. note: There was no ed. note accompanying Broughton’s letter.] Oh well, at least it isn’t the narrow-minded, hate-filled letter that I read a few issues back from “Brigitte B.” [ND #37].
I suppose it is all to be expected being as you are a music magazine. After all, the music industry, Hollywood and all the other arts are left leaning communities. Anyone who happens to be in any of these groups who dares to think different is just asking to be put down, ridiculed or worse for their beliefs. And this comes from the so called “open minded” crowd. Although again, see above definition of liberal diversity.
As for Steve Earle, I can honestly say that I was a fan his earlier work, even tolerating an occasional song or three promoting his misguided views. But as of late, I find I can’t even give the guy any respect at all. I mean really, socialism? Like so many liberal ideas, cute in theory, disastrous in real life. At least I don’t have to worry about spending any more of my hard-earned money on any of his CDs. I sure wouldn’t want “the man” to make any money off of me. Instead of making good music, he seems more concerned with following the PC bandwagon and appealing intellectually “radical”. Wearing “I love Iraq” T-shirts in America is nothing more than someone looking for attention. Wearing an “I support the U.S. troops” T-shirt in the middle of Iraq? Now that’s radical!
I hate to be so hard on you guys, but as a faithful subscriber since the early years I found it necessary to point out that not all of your readers are of the same point of view. When you actually bother to concentrate on writing about music, you guys are simply outstanding. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read the National Review for the latest CD reviews of my favorite alt.country artists.
— Michael Johnson
ND for three:
Depth, speech and Cash
You all need to know that I love your magazine. I started subscribing back with issue #39, and I devour each issue as soon as it arrives! For me, one of the best things about your magazine (beyond covering music I love) is you actually have lengthy in-depth articles and interviews. That is such a rarity in media dominated by those who cater to a public with Short Attention Spans (or SAPS as I call them). Now for two specific things.
First, to those who are canceling their subscriptions because you actually interviewed someone with different point of view than theirs and you actually expression opinions different from theirs; well, please slow down a second so the door can hit you in the ass on your way out! I honor the concept of freedom of speech, and a democracy can only thrive when both folks of all stripes can freely express their differing views and people listen respectfully to those views. Running around with your fingers in both ears when folks say things you don’t like is juvenile. Freedom is also freedom of differences.
Second, thank you so much for the wonderful article about Rosanne Cash [ND #44, March-April 2003]. I’m a big fan of hers and I’m immensely looking forward to her new album. Her albums Interiors and The Wheel are not only two of my favorite albums, but two of my most frequently played and recommended albums. I’ve enjoyed seeing her growth as an artist over the years, both in music and writing. Overall, it was an excellent, informative article about an artist with a lot of depth and character to her (beyond a lot of talent!).
Now for another long period of watching my mailbox for the next issue to arrive…
— Michael Blackmore
One on the plus side
I’ve always looked forward to strolling into my local bookstore every couple of months to personally pick up my must-have copy of your fine rag the very minute it hits the shelf. It’s been a sort of ritualistic process for me, but unfortunately it now must come to an end. And I really hate to see it go.
But after reading the recent rantings in Box Full Of Letters by a couple of former ND subscribers who seemed to appreciate your magazine but just couldn’t handle the fact that Grant Alden might think differently than they (“so please cancel my subscription!”), I started to think that maybe it was time for me to make a change regarding how I acquired my own copy of ND. Then, to put the final hammer blow to nail on the matter, I’m moved to the brink of tears reading Joe Ely’s wonderfully warm, simply stated tribute to the late Joe Strummer [ND #44, March-April 2003]. A legendary honky-tonker from West Texas paying poignant homage to a legendary punk rocker from London, England. My goodness, this diverse world of ours can indeed be beautiful at times, eh?
Cheers to you, No Depression, and please start my subscription immediately.
— Juan Welsh
Ely on Strummer:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for printing Joe Ely’s eulogy for Joe Strummer [ND #44, March-April 2003]. I’ve been surprised by how many people have come out of the woodwork to pay respect to Strummer, but it didn’t take long before everybody was simply reciting the same things: “The Clash was my awakening, Strummer was the conscience of punk, he was a ball of fury onstage,” and so on. This is all true, but it tells only one side of the story.
It seems that every journalist has made the claim that they were close friends with Strummer, but Ely’s comments are transparently intimate. The picture that ran with the column tells almost as much as the words do. The best part of Ely’s dispatch is that I finally learned some things I didn’t know, and I know a lot about the Clash’s frontman.
For all of the Clash’s mythmaking, Joe Strummer was never afraid to appear human. With those words, Joe Ely has graciously celebrated the man who was, not who everybody wanted him to be.
— Jeff Holmes
Los Angeles, California
[Ed. note: We received a similar letter from Joel Spinhirne of Pine Grove, Oregon.]
Rosanne Cash article:
Too hard on Carlene
As always, I greet each new issue of your super magazine with enthusiasm for the articles and letters and the insight they bring to the lives of the musicians that we love. The music speaks for itself but the feature articles reveal much more about the artists, their inspirations, and their views on fame, success and failure and the challenges of life in the music world.
ND #44’s feature on Rosanne Cash was great for me, having been a longtime fan and supporter of her music and the new country genre she grew within. I was jolted, though, at the close of Lloyd Sachs’ article when he referred to Rosanne’s stepsister Carlene Carter as one whose career “has spiraled sadly…amid recent arrests for drugs and identify theft.”
Facts withstanding, he should have done more than diss her in a few short sentences. Carlene and Rosanne are equals in country royalty, and Carlene’s career stands apart with some of the most original, energetic, and heartfelt music of the genre.
A look at the superstars of country includes many, many artists whose troubles are legendary and celebrated as part of their creative genius: Hank Williams, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Waylon Jennings and their dad Johnny Cash, to name but a few. I think Lloyd needs to pull his head out from you know where and give credit where credit is due. The respect of mine he gained writing about Rosanne was lost in an instant.
— Rick Lobato
Troubled in Toronto
Will someone please explain the reason for all the Kathleen Edwards hype to me? I seriously don’t get it. I bought into the hype, I’m a big roots fan, big singer-songwriter fan, so thought her stuff would be right up my alley. I bought her CD the same day that I saw her at NXNE here in Toronto. I was unimpressed, but thought perhaps I’ll like the CD more.
Well, I didn’t. It was the most annoying Lucinda ripoff I’ve heard in a long time. It was derivative and, contrary to what critics seem to be saying, almost none of her stuff felt particularly authentic to me. Then I read the ND interview [#43, Jan.-Feb. 2003] and her lack of authenticity seemed to surface for me again. A wealthy diplomats daughter talking about how poor she is! I’m reminded of the Pulp song “Common People”.
If she really was poor and that was her life, she wouldn’t feel the need to talk about it as if it gives her some kind of roots cred. Upper-middle-class kids playing at being poor so they can say they “suffered” for their “art” is, well, offensive to anyone who really is hard-up and doesn’t have rich diplomat parents to bail them out if they really need it. (Or should I say be their “bailer” if they’re a “Failer”?)
One thing is for sure, she certainly has talented management and publicists.
— Steve Ryland
Going to San Antone
I’m writing to offer well-deserved praise for John Morthland’s coverage of Doug Sahm Day [ND #43, Jan.-Feb. 2003]. Having lived in San Antonio all my life, I feel so fortunate to have been swept into the mystical winds of the “Tejas Tornado.” Not only did Sir Doug trot his trademark Tex-Mex “border wave” sound around the globe, but in it he captured all the joy of those old-fashioned blue-collar weekends on S.A.’s West Side — golden sunsets, the air filled with the sounds of conjunto and blues bands, and homemade barbacoa, cold beer, lots of dancing, and of course more ice cold beer! He melded seamlessly into so many genres, but it’s clear to all who know his roots where Sahm’s heart kept a firm foothold.
In this world of uncertainty, there are two facts we can all rest easy knowing: 1) As long as Doug’s musical compadres, recordings and stories from the street are around, his spirit will shine as bright as the Lone Star of Texas; and 2) Before shuffling through those pearly gates, ol’ St. Peter was educated in the finer points of what makes a “damn good enchilada” by the Cosmic Vato de San Antonio himself!
— Jerry Clayworth
San Antonio, Texas