Box Full of Letters from Issue #48
A view from down under
A few listens in to her new LP Identity Crisis and I was thinking, “This sure ain’t no I Am Shelby Lynne.” Then after reading Michael McCall’s smartly written, insightful portrait of the lady [ND #47, September-October 2003], I realized it was never meant to be. Just like her sister Allison Moorer, and our own Kasey Chambers, Lynne’s a true maverick, making music her own way — which can be both a blessing and a curse. Thanks for opening this slightly jaded critic’s eyes.
— Jeff Apter
Music Editor, Rolling Stone Australia
Defending his “more solitary explorations”
In her article on My Morning Jacket [ND #47], Allison Stewart proves to be truly shallow. In the second paragraph, she laments that MMJ makes you “hopeful that, as promised, they really will become the next Wilco, instead of the next Son Volt.”
What is there to lament about Son Volt? Their Trace was to me a stunning folk/rock/ country opera set during the summer that historic floods inundated the Mississippi River valley. Jay Farrar continues his artistic exploration of the darker events and histories of North America.
I paged through Farrar and Tweedy’s high school yearbooks recently. There you find an affable Jeff Tweedy, smiling in the soccer team composites; Farrar had no activities linked to his name, and stared back from his senior portrait with that feral look that probably got him invited to zero parties.
Why not appreciate these artists for what they are? Tweedy will probably always please the college audiences and be on more “Soundstage” and Jay Leno shows. Good for him and we who love Wilco. We should also expect Farrar to continue his more solitary explorations of tragedy, legends, and America. Good for us too. I’ll gladly pay my $17 dues ever year or so to follow his art.
Stewart believes that unless you or your band rise to the hype created by her crew of part-time rock ‘n’ roll speculators, you are a failure. That is shallow and materialistic (and incidentally two of the characteristics Farrar laments in much of his work).
I hope Stewart and her ilk are not given more space in No Depression. I would guess that most of us are drawn to ND exactly because it doesn’t deal in the hype and art speculation of most of the main line music publications.
— Mark Clark
At her own pace
I was disappointed by your critique of Gillian Welch’s latest album, Soul Journey, in the July-August issue [ND #46]. I consider myself a Gillian Welch fan and am therefore probably more prone to defend her than to objectively analyze her albums and her work on a whole. Although I was pleased that you included her in the ranks of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, I don’t think it’s fair to expect such a relatively new and freshly popular artist to divert from her style as Dylan and Young did. Soul Journey is only Welch’s fourth album; even Dylan, who made musical history by suddenly switching styles, had four albums under his belt before releasing Bringing It All Back Home. And although some artists may change direction during their careers, Welch — or any other performers of old-timey music — should not feel pressured to pick up the pace, as you suggest. (Can you tell I love the album?)
— Sarah Greenbaum
The review not written
I’m really disappointed with Peter Blackstock’s review of Gillian Welch’s Soul Journey [ND #46] and not just because I’m an outraged fan who thinks that it is a great album that I would recommend to just about anyone, as well as the most logical next step for Welch and [David] Rawlings, but because instead of reviewing the disc Peter wrote a criticism of her career. Whether or not this is “a defining point in Welch’s career” has yet to be seen. Next time instead of writing about what he thinks the record should be (i.e. the road not taken), I’d prefer to hear more about the actual musical sounds on the disc.
— Gerald Schoenherr
Durham, North Carolina
Politics and music:
“It makes me think”
I just had to respond to the round of letters regarding Steve Earle and/or the leftist leanings of No Depression.
First off I agree with Steve for the most part. He may well be a liberal but he’s on the money about most things. Secondly, I don’t really see any political leanings one way or the other. For those who do — get over it.
I read ND for two main reasons. First, it covers the music I love. Second, it makes me think. If those thoughts are about the subtle difference between the sound of a steel guitar and the wail of a bottleeck slide, that’s fine by me. If those thoughts are about whether Steve Earle is right or wrong, well that’s all right too.
— Keith Robb
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Setting the record straight
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on Don McLeese’s review of Rodney Crowell in ND #47.
Normally I agree with Mr. Mcleese and find him to be a very knowledgeable writer. I’ve been a fan from the days he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, even following him to Austin, Texas, when he joined the Austin American-Statesman. His musings over the years have tremendously broadened my musical expanse.
However, while McLeese remains a top-notch writer, I believe he has blatantly abused the privilege of “off the record” by including a private conversation between myself and Mr. McLeese in his review of Rodney Crowell’s Fate’s Right Hand.
While I can’t find fault with his labeling me “the perennial spring chicken,” I do take umbrage with him for claiming I find Rodney pathetic and obsessed. I am a big fan of Mr. Crowell, Diamonds And Dirt is in my car CD player now, and his recent remembrance of June Carter Cash in No Depression was so touching it brought tears to my eyes.
So, for the record: Tell No Depression readers to please give Fate’s Right Hand a listen and don’t pay any attention to what Don McLeese’s wife may or may not find funny.
— Maria McLeese
West Des Moines, Iowa
At the risk of giving him more attention than he deserves, here’s my contribution to the great Mike Logan debate. I’ve no problem with reviews being unfair — it can make for a very entertaining read — but is it too much to ask that they are at least comprehensible? To pick a few quotes at random from his “review” in ND #46 [July-August 2002]: “It is self-referential welfare status masquerading as Vikings”; “Swinging white hipster vernacular is drudgery marveling at its pickininny shamelessness”; “The vocal troika…are the bouncers of low-octane doo-wah even when they rave”. That’s not criticism, that’s showing-off. It’s not big and it’s not clever. As your previous correspondent suggested, get a blog.
— Chris Hodge
Mike Logan’s review of Molly Hatchet and Commander Cody [ND #46] was one of the funniest goddamn things I’ve ever read in my entire life.
Please tell him he is officially invited over for dinner.
— Lea DeForest
Prairie Farm, Wisconsin