Box Full of Letters from Issue #6
Who came first:
The Tupelo chicken or the alt-country egg?
In a letter to the editor in issue #4, Bosco of Austin, TX, contended that Uncle Tupelo should not be viewed as “some kind of starting point for a growing new country-rock/alternative-country scene.” I have to disagree somewhat. Certainly Uncle Tupelo cannot be called the starting point for anything musical, because the musical forms they worked under predated them and they did not make any radical changes to these forms. Instead, they serve more as a focal point or a rallying point, just as Nirvana did for alternative rock for one beautiful moment in the early ’90s. I think that for a lot of fans, Uncle Tupelo was the band that led them to start exploring country music, working both forward and backward. Your magazine is pretty solid evidence that this is true.
Whatever that ain’t
So glad to see that you have gone bimonthly. Now if you could just get rid of that stupid subtitle that says “Alternative Country (whatever that is).” It’s confusing and weak — not to mention indecisive. The truth is No Depression is a great magazine about music. Please stop trying to classify it like the major labels must do in order to justify their statistics. Americana is NOT going to take over the world — or MTV for that matter, so be content with the growing numbers of fans and better means of communication. And, like John Stirratt said in ND Vol. 2, No. 1, “Let’s face it, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll.”
Why don’t you have a contest in order to find a better subtitle? Here are a few of my suggestions:
1) A damn good music magazine.
2) For the bastard children of Hank Sr., Patsy Cline and Ray Davies.
3) Bob Dylan’s favorite coffee table magazine that Steve Earle likes to dance on.
4) Blue-Eyed Soul Aficionados.
5) Life After Anodyne.
You know, Rolling Stone doesn’t call itself “a so-called ‘music magazine’ about Hollywood and fashion” — even though that’s what it is!
Franklin County, OH
P.S. — I have never bought or listened to an Uncle Tupelo record in my life. Can I still be a subscriber?
[Ed. note: Of course not. We’re sending you instructions on mail-ordering the entire UT back catalog instead. …Oh, and one more thing: If in fact it’s all rock ‘n’ roll — well, what’s rock ‘n’ roll? Gee, this game of semantics gets so darn complicated….]
Whatever that is:
Wherever that may be
The name of your magazine is quite funny, but mostly I like the subname. I run a folk music show, “Camera Obscura” (English translation: “Dark Chamber”) on the Radio Voice of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Don’t you think that a dark chamber is a bit depressive? You bet I do play some depressive music in it. When I describe to someone who would like to know what kind of music I play on the show, I would normally say, “everything from ethno and folk to alternative folk and country — whatever that is.” It’s nice to find out I am on the same wavelength with someone in another part of the world.
It is funny that I never liked country music. Because of increased interest in folk music, I became more and more in touch with the kind of country music that people who loved country music didn’t like. I learned that country music has its own alternative, and is not just all those silly country songs.
Keep up the good work.
Whatever it is:
What color is it?
A lot of people don’t like to call the kind of music you all write about “Alternative Country” or “Americana” or “No Depression” because these titles carry a lot of baggage and preconceptions. I say we start all over and call it what me and my friends call it: “The Brown Sound.” We’re not sure exactly where it originated from, but whenever there’s a band playing in town, we ask, “Are they brown?” It’s funny to us, and people seem to get it right away. Useful? We’ll see.
Whatever that is:
And Tweedy too
Dear No Depression,
I have never sent a letter to a magazine before, but I felt I needed to comment on a few things. First of all, I love your publication. I have found many great bands by reading the last five issues. I do, however, have a couple problems.
First of all, the music we share a love for is very close to becoming just another version of what happened to grunge rock (whatever that is). Not because of the musicians or the bands, but because some people feel that they need to slap a label on any two bands that sound familiar. As a songwriter and musician, I get freaked out when something that I hold dear to me is seen as a movement. Or, as Brian Paulson said in issue #5, “every label wants its own Son Volt.” So, by giving the major label “suits” and A&R people a tag like “alternative country” to throw around, all we are doing is making sure alt-country will go the way of grunge. People will get excited by it for awhile, and then the media will overkill on it, and then it will be over. That would be quite tragic. So let’s please try to keep the name-calling and labeling down to a minimum. (Whatever that means.)
Also, after reading the Wilco story, I really had a problem with a few things that Jeff Tweedy said. I hope I misunderstood him. Was it bullshit for him to want Tupelo fans to like him? If that’s what he meant, I have news for him: He got the band when they broke up! How could we not like him? And furthermore, why is it bullshit? I loved his songs as much as Jay Farrar’s. From the outside, Tupelo was not Farrar’s band, it was both of them crafting songs that were different in feel to some extent, yet completely at home on the same records. Also, the first two LPs they put out really spoke to me, and that is what really matters, isn’t it? I’m sorry if he is jaded about his Tupelo years, but his songs and Farrar’s really mean a lot to me, and he can be proud that he touched those kinds of emotions not only in me, but in countless others.
My only other problem is that you all haven’t said word one about one of my favorite bands, Bad Livers. So what gives?
Kansas City, MO
[Ed. note: As for that last question — well, whaddaya know; check out this issue’s live review section.]
Tweedy too two:
An unabashed fan
One of my college birthdays at SIU-C, my buddy from Eastern introduced me to Uncle Tupelo. I caught the first night of their “farewell” shows at Mississippi Nights and I was hooked. Jeff Tweedy’s live performance reeked of good-time, real rock fun. When Wilco began playing live, we were blessed with a developing that would come to sound solid, seasoned and relevant.
My liking both Tweedy and Jay Farrar’s music has helped to open my ears. In response to “Being There, Doing That” from ND Vol. 2, No. 1, I must declare: Jeff, we love ya. Keep on rockin’. Keep on goin’. No matter what people appear to think or have thought, it all sounds good. Please come to town. Max will be missed, but you’re still great. There are many a folk who appreciate your music and what you’re doing.
–The guy in the Wilco hat
P.S. — A round of Bud longnecks to you all here at ND for bringing us so much info on soooo many bands.
[Editor’s note: Thanks ..but could we make that Shiner Bock instead?]
Tweedy too three:
The kids are alright
Since my 10-month-old will only stop crying sometimes if I play for him, I can empathize with Jeff Tweedy; it’s real neat. Where I differ with Tweedy, and it was confirmed to me yesterday while driving and listening to Still Feel Gone, is that I believe the songwriting, then and now, is flat-out exceptional. Those are great records. I’ve tried for 20 years to write, and it’s just that simple: UT, Wilco and the related stuff is special.
The last word:
A gratuitous plug
You guys rule. No joke. I mean like you guys totally rule. Okay? Cool.