Box Full of Letters from Issue #5
Not a laughing matter
Dear No Depression Editors:
I want to preface this letter by saying that I really like your magazine. I’ve read all four issues and have sent off a subscription as a show of faith in your new bimonthly format. As an avid fan of alternative country acts like Uncle Tupelo, Freakwater, Jolene, et al, I appreciate finally having a ‘zine around that addresses the genre.
However, as a woman of color, I found your choice of cover photo for the fourth issue disturbing. I understand it pertains to the featured article on Honey Wilds, a blackface comedian from the early days of the Opry (whose relevance in country music or the history of the Opry is, in my opinion, somewhat dubious). However, blackface comedy was more often derogatory and insulting to African-Americans than it was an “homage” to black culture, as Wilds’ son and biographer claims his father’s act was. Using that photo on your cover suggests that you are insensitive to this, or perhaps ignorant of the fact that there are people of color who are alterna-country fans and might be part of your readership (there are more than a few of us out here). Hopefully this letter will make you aware of that fact, and inspire you to be more sensitive in the future.
New York, NY
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
After a fun gig in Oxford [Mississippi] at Proud Larry’s, the Continental Drifters went shopping at Uncle Buck’s and picked ND #4. On the way back to the cars, we found the article on Beatle Bob, and we all got excited to see it. Bob’s been coming to shows I’ve played since I was in the dB’s, and he’s been a Continental Drifters pal/fan for ages.
So imagine our surprise and delight upon beginning our set at City Stages in Birmingham [Alabama] and seeing Bob dancing in front of the stage. We felt a collective sense of comfort with him there.
To the Paul Hampels of the world — Bob has come to represent the fan that the rest of us are too self-conscious to be. Would that we were all so motivated and loving.
Your magazine is greatly informative and we enjoy the hell out of it.
New Orleans, Louisiana
P.S. — Regarding your query in the subheading to the Will Oldham article [“Is Will Oldham the most mysterious man in show business, or just a monumental pain in the ass?”] — I vote for the latter. More real people like Bill Lloyd, please, and less faux-mystery men who try to lie like Gram but end up coming off, as the expression goes, hoist on their own petard.
For the love of the game
In 1982, Don McLeese, then writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, compiled his year-end list, which I clipped and saved. (It’s been stuck inside T Bone Burnett’s Trap Door for 13-1/2 years!) It wasn’t so much the music itself that McLeese ranked and reviewed from 1982 that I agreed with (though I did), but rather his concise and deeply personal treatise on rock music in general: “I’m not much for dealing with rock on a theoretical basis (listening to an ‘important’ record sounds almost as dull as listening to one that is ‘good for you’), but I know what I like. Instinctively. For me, the best rock ‘n’ roll continues to reflect the possibilities of life at its fullest.” Those words — that passion — moved me as much then as now. What a surprise and pleasure it was to see McLeese’s recent reviews in No Depression.
–David J. Klug
Denver to Deutschendorf
Regarding the Carpetbaggers being suburban boys singing suburban themes to country music [“Carpetbaggers: Nothing Could Be Fina Than Being From Edina”, ND #4]: A trivia note that was missed is that John Denver (nee: Deutschendorf) is also a native of Edina, Minnesota.
Thank God I’m A Country Boy — indeed!
(Lord of the ND T-shirts)
Stone Walls & Stanleys:
Let’s play country Jeopardy!
[Ed. preface: In a review of Chris Mills’ single “Nowhere Town” b/w “Stone Walls, Steel Bars” (ND #4, page 93), Peter Blackstock wrote: “The B-side, performed totally solo acoustic, is credited to Marcum/Pennington; it sounds like a classic country ballad, though I’m not familiar with it (roundly flog me if I should be).”]
One flogging coming up!
“Stone Walls and Steel Bars” is an old Stanley Brothers song, described in the liner notes of 20 Bluegrass Originals (a 1978 reissue on Gusto Deluxe) as “one of their most popular numbers.”
But wait — are there mitigating circumstances? On page 75, Blackstock admits he is still “seeking out the music’s history.” And since the musical record of that history is so huge, we’ll use a soft silk cat o’nine tails for this particular episode of punishment. Although I listened to the Grand Ole Opry as a kid, and have always enjoyed country music, at age 56 I’m still seeking unknown treasures too.
P.S. — Wouldn’t it have been a kick if Danny & Dusty (page 94) had called themselves Wynn-Stuart?
[Ed. note: Thanks for going easy on us. And now, in ever-present pursuit of education on the subject: It just so happens that this same song is covered on the new Loose Diamonds EP Fresco Fiasco! (reviewed in this issue). BUT: the Loose Diamonds disc gives songwriting credit to Carter Stanley, and spells the song “Stonewalls & Steelbars”. We checked back with Mr. Estel, and he tells us that on his Stanley Brothers album, the songwriting credit goes to Pennington/Marcum, and the spelling/wording of the title is “Stone Walls and Steel Bars”. Just thought you’d like to know.]
Thanks a lot
Since discovering No Depression, I’ve learned that my quirky musical tastes are not all that quirky — at the very least, I feel a part of a larger community of idiosyncratic alt-country enthusiasts.
After reading the summer issue, I’ve purchased CDs by Palace (an old favorite — liked the interview with Will Enigma Oldham), Richmond Fontaine, Gillian Welch, and Kill Creek. My wife says I should send you the bills.
But I won’t.
I’ll only send my thanks. Keep up the fabulous work.
–Z. Bart Thornton
(Whatever that is)
I’d like to subscribe to your magazine despite the embarrassing name.
[Ed. note: Thanks. But do you mean our name, or yours? Uh, just kidding…]