Box Full of Letters from Issue #60
All that jazz:
Bring it on!
I just wanted to add my two cents about your Lizz Wright cover [ND #58, July-August 2005]. First, I considered the cover completely appropriate. I purchased Lizz’s album and found it met the expectations set by your magazine. On the other hand, I had no interest in reading an article about Charlie Daniels, but I’m glad you published it for those who did.
Secondly, isn’t it time we stopped worrying about what is “country” and what is “blues” or “jazz”? These so-called “forms” of music all grew in the same soil, but were separated by segregation and all of that post-Civil War southern madness, including access to musical training and performance spaces.
We only have these labels today because the early record companies found them useful in marketing their wares. They have little if anything to do with the music itself and everything to do with the race and/or social class of both the performers and listeners during the days of Jim Crow.
To paraphrase Duke Ellington, there are only two kinds of music, good and bad, the rest is just a matter of taste.
I hope that you will continue to challenge expectations and will keep exploring all of the good music that has evolved from our common roots.
Keep up the good work.
— John Askins
All that jazz:
Not so fast
The new changes are great, but please stay away from featuring jazz musicians. If No Depression continues down this path, you are going to have lots of unhappy subscribers, including me. Otherwise, you have the best publication on the planet.
— Randy Skender
Whatever that is…
In response to Grant Alden’s “Hello Stranger” column, and to the new phrase on your cover — “surveying the past, present, and future of American music” — in issue #59, I’m prompted to offer a few observations. First I should indicate that, as both an academic and a musician, I was never “confounded” or “annoyed” by the “alt.country (whatever that is)” phrase (and its variants). In fact, I found it charming, and reassuring in its self-effacing modesty.
“Charming” and “self-effacing” are terms that, I am certain, would not occur to anyone in characterizing the phrase “surveying the past, present, and future of American music.” This new description is simply inaccurate, as you must know. There is much important American music (classical, avant-garde, jazz, musical theater, etc., etc.) that you do not attempt to cover — nor should you — but don’t mislead your past, present, and future readers. What is most disturbing about the phrase, however, is its deliberate overreaching and air of pretentious self-importance.
The trajectory of Rolling Stone offers an unfortunately instructive example of what happens when a magazine starts to conceive of itself in excessive, self-consciously grandiose terms. You are putting out a magazine that is stimulating, useful, and enjoyable to read. But please, remember your roots, don’t put on airs, and don’t get above your raisin’.
— Larry Starr
Professor of Music, University of Washington
“Everyone considered them, the cowards of the country…”
You lefties crack me up.
In a “review” of Freakwater’s new album in your September-October issue, one of your “editors,” Bill Friskics-Warren, writes as follows:
“Alluding both to the celebrated flower of the Bushes’ home state and to the cowardice of the two presidents…”
As I’m sure you’re aware (sarcasm/ON), George H.W. Bush was the youngest pilot in the Navy during World War II, which he volunteered for on his 18th birthday. He flew many missions in the Pacific theater and was shot down and rescued from the waters off an island whose Japanese occupiers killed all the American pilots they shot down (a book called Flyboys describes this).
Have Mr. F-W get back to me and explain the grounds on which he mocks the combat service of a WWII veteran, and also with the text of the correction you’re gonna print in your next issue.
— Priscilla Witt
[Bill Friskics-Warren responds: Bravery in military service and cowardice in public office — the latter in the form of blood-for-oil diplomacy — are, alas, two different things. As for mocking the military service of George the 1st, I did no such thing. My allusion was strictly to his dealings in the Middle East during his term as President.]
More to the story
I enjoyed Ed Ward’s article in praise of the Five Royales and his well-written piece on the late Little Milton in your most recent issue. His review of John Einarson’s biography on Gene Clark was something he could have declined if he was that repelled by the subject. It’s pretty common knowledge from articles in the roots magazine Dirty Linen and on the internet that Clark succumbed to substance abuse and that tragedy is played out to its sad conclusion in the recent book . What I wanted to read was how Clark grew up and his travels on his musical journey all those years ago with so many great musicians, paving the way to what your magazine is now covering. I really enjoyed John’s book, and he makes you feel as though you are right there as things happened with the Byrds and all their permutations and reunions and Gene’s other projects. Gene’s career in music is really fascinating and I’m glad this book was written and published; it’s well worth reading. I just wasn’t sure if readers got the wrong message from Mr. Ward’s review of it.
— Kevin Ruddell
One more, with feeling
I read John Einarson’s excellent book about Gene Clark’s music and life, Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life And Legacy Of The Byrds’ Gene Clark. It is extensively researched, compellingly written, and honors the memory of a great singer-songwriter. Despite having to chronicle Gene’s personal decline at the end, in habits and in health, the book, like Gene, is always about the music. Ed Ward’s review of said book, however, was a lazy, negative, hit piece. Einarson’s letter of protest to Ward was also compellingly written and defended the book much better than I could. What I’m responding to is Ward’s response to Einarson’s defense of his book.
After a long, silly quibble about how many people were at Clark’s death scene, Ward opines, “I’m not mesmerized by Clark’s songwriting past the Byrds because I haven’t heard it.” Come again? In other words, Ward is not impressed by Clark’s post-Byrds songwriting because he hasn’t bothered to hear it. How the hell can anyone criticize something they haven’t even heard?! And, evidently, Ward hasn’t heard much of Clark’s Byrds songs, because he made the cardinal sin in his review of saying Gene Clark was “Gene Clarke” before he dropped the “e.” As Einarson pointed out, the “Clarke” in the Byrds was drummer Michael Clarke and he never dropped the “e.” Out of what orifice did Ed Ward pull this “Clarke” factoid? Did he dream it? His defense is, “I’m not sure where I got that ‘e’ business.” This is like saying Mick Jagger was “Mick Jaggers” before he dropped the “s.” Lazy review, lazy defense of review.
Mr. Ward, you need to pull your head out of your Tweedy and listen to some Gene Clark, Byrds and post-Byrds. He is a seminal influence on many of the bands your fine, even-if-growing-annoyingly-political mag writes about. I’d especially recommend you listen to Clark solo albums White Light and No Other, Clark’s two albums with Doug Dillard (The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark and Through The Morning, Through The Night), and Clark’s So Rebellious A Lover album with Carla Olson. Who knows, you may even be mesmerized.
— Steve Cooper
Walkertown, North Carolina
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