Box Full of Letters from Issue #57
“There is diversity in country music”
I wanted to write and thank you for exposing me to the variety of music and of political perspectives in this magazine. I have become a big fan of bluegrass via Alison Krauss & Union Station. Some people may say, “So what?” but I am not part of the target audience for this type of music. I am from South Central Los Angeles and yes, I am African American and an intermediate violinist who aspires to play bluegrass.
For too long, I believed that CMT, Toby Keith and other popular performers spoke for everyone from the southern region of the country. It wasn’t until the Dixie Chicks (a group I also love) spoke against the war that I began to consider that there is diversity in country music after all. Every since I began reading this magazine, I now shop at CD Baby and other online stores rather than my local Tower Records for the artists that have appeared in these pages.
As for people who say that politics and music don’t mix, they don’t know or maybe don’t understand the long history of protest and the arts combined, especially if you’re part of the poor and/or of color population in America.
Lastly, I love the way that No Depression highlights and pays tribute to artists who’ve been largely ignored by the mainstream. So keep on keeping on with the way you do what you do!
— Lethia Cobbs
South Central Los Angeles, California
Politics and music:
“There will always be an overlap”
After struggling for the past year to get hold of ND, I’ve now taken out a subscription, the wisest decision I’ve made in a while. Issue #55 arrived safe and sound from over the Atlantic and was as entertaining and informative a read as its predecessors.
On the music/politics debate (unless you’ve laid this one to rest), I think we have to accept that there will always be an overlap. That’s not to say that any singer’s opinion has more value than anyone else’s, but surely the role of an artist is to offer a different perspective on the things going on around us, whether that be Iraq, the presidential election or anything affecting the way we live. I don’t think we should hide from that and I don’t think we can.
For what it’s worth, I think Steve Earle understands what America was meant to be all about better than George Bush and Dick Cheney ever will.
— Peter Davies
Liverpool, United Kingdom
“Why anger half the crowd?”
I enjoyed your interview with one of my very favorite singers, Nanci Griffith. I am one of her biggest fans. I have bought it all, CDs, albums, books, even clothing. I have seen her in concert many times and found her to be sincere, genuine, and gracious in sharing the stage.
The last two times that I’ve seen her, at the Ntelos in Portsmouth [Virginia] and the Birchmere [in Alexandria, Virginia], the concerts were marred by political statements. People in the audience were not happy, some to the point of never supporting Nanci again. The statements were not “get out and vote,” but rather, we have to get this idiot, including Tom DeLay, out of the White House. Considering the country is at best divided 50/50, why anger half the crowd?
I still love and respect Ms. Griffith, but if she cannot move her biggest fan, perhaps her next song should be about backlash rather than the cloud of war.
— Wayne Prince
Where was Eliza?
I have read critic polls for more than enough years to know that I should probably just shrug my shoulders and say “Ah, well” when a favorite album doesn’t make it to the list.
In this instance, I must write because I feel there is a broader issue involved.
I was flabbergasted to find that Eliza Gilkyson’s Land Of Milk And Honey did not warrant an inclusion anywhere in the Top 50. I respect that more than 40 reviewers were polled, but it frankly defies belief that Eliza’s 2004 album did not make it. In my opinion, and many of my colleagues, it was one of the best — if not the best — album of 2004. Every review I have read would lean that way.
The broader issue is this: The title byline to No Depression, “alt.country (whatever that is),” is a neat tag-on. However, it seems to me in recent issues that there is a tendency to narrowly view what should be included in your magazine. This is perhaps a result (accidental or coincidental, maybe?) of having reviewers/writers with more or less the same leanings in music — and thus the music interest of any one of these does not vary substantially from the others. The poll would certainly seem to verify this.
There are other eminent albums — more in the vein of Eliza Gilkyson than the Drive-By Truckers — that I could list as not having made the chart. It is time to have a look at the diversity of contributors to No Depression.
— Patrick Hurley
[Ed. note: Each voter’s complete ballot was posted at www.nodepression.net; two of our writers did in fact vote for Gilkyson’s album, but that was not enough for it to place in our Top 50.]
Southern rock I:
MTB and more
A few issues ago, a reader lauded the brilliance of the Marshall Tucker Band. His letter received no printable response from either readers or editors. Having been a big fan of southern rock in its heyday, particularly artists on the Capricorn label, I would like to add my two-bob’s worth and request that your magazine do an article on this great mix of rock, blues, country and jazz.
The southern rock artists who took my fancy were the MTB, whose first three albums are just as essential listening today as they were back in the ’70s. Also, Elvin Bishop’s first two Capricorn albums (Elvin Bishop and Juke Joint Jump) still stand up well for their superb musicianship and good-time, rockin’ songs.
To the uninitiated, there was much more to this genre than the Allmans, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot or Molly Hatchet. These bands were, to me, rock bands who had southern roots but really didn’t delve too deeply into the jazz and/or country (except Dickie Betts) elements of the music.
The bands and artists I would love to see explored by your magazine in any article would be, Gary Stewart, MTB, Elvin Bishop, Alex Taylor, Joe Ely, Grinderswitch, Bonnie Bramlett, the Amazing Rhythm Aces and Sea Level. Much of the music from these artists still sounds great today. I often burn some southern rock “best of” CDs to play at parties, and the response is invariably positive to this great music. Now that much of this music is being re-released on remastered CDs, I feel it is a good time to do a retrospective on southern rock and its influence on today’s musicians and fans.
Great magazine, top article on Los Super Seven and I love the newish format. Keep up the good work.
— Tony Prowse
Southern rock II:
Shout-out to the Ozarks
I’ve been a subscriber for a few years now, and I have to say that when I first stumbled upon this magazine, it was as if I had found a long-lost friend. No one I know shares my musical taste, and your pages have been my most reliable guide, opening doors to new artists I would have never otherwise discovered.
It is also very nice to read about old favorites. But I have noticed one bunch that has been very conspicuously missing from your pages. What about the Ozarks? The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are as alt as alt can be, with songs ranging from the eclectic “Chicken Train” and “Time Warp” on down to foot-tapping hand-clappers like “Standing On The Rock” and “Noah”. Not to mention the fact that they have got to be the only band to get radio airplay with a jaw harp.
Just my two cents. Keep up the good work.
— John Metz
Wake Forest, North Carolina