Box Full of Letters from Issue #62
It’s about the music:
And, “It’s about finding the answer”
I wanted to voice my appreciation for your words in the January-February 2006 issue of your fantastic publication. I’ve not been subscribing to your magazine for long, arriving at your magazine after a long search through various other publications that always ended up disappointing me by being more about a lifestyle and an image than about the music (even Paste, which I once thought beyond reproach, has disappointed me recently by including, among other things, the names of the designers of the clothing the artists are wearing.)
When I found No Depression, I felt as though I had finally found a publication that was, and would always be, about great music first and foremost, and thus far, I’ve not been disappointed. I did fear, at one point, that the focus of your magazine might be too narrow, but I found that, with age, my tastes had narrowed a great deal, as well, and all of this brings me back to my initial statement.
When I read [Grant Alden’s] end-of-year essay (in which you declared your love for music that “rocked,” yet expressed disdain for what passes for indie “rock” these days), it struck me instantly as an almost perfect encapsulation of what I had been thinking about a great deal during the last year. My wife and I recently had a son, and, each day, I find myself taken aback once more at how profoundly this has changed me.
This statement isn’t, in itself, profound, because of course having a child changes a person immensely and immediately. But the depth of the change, well, that can be surprising. And I was surprised when the indie rock of my college years no longer moved me after the birth of my son. I felt too young (28) to abandon the music of my youth, but the more I listened, the less I felt, and life is too short to indulge oneself in art that provokes no response in the soul.
I couldn’t give up on music; I love it too much. But I had to find something that would refresh me and renew my spirit. The music featured in your magazine (which I will call American roots music, the best term I can think of right now) makes me feel something, and that’s what I want to listen to. That’s the music that I want to share with my son.
You summed it up best when you chose the word “clarity” as the trait that drew you in and excited you. Because I am an adult now, and the time for dwelling on the questions is over for me. It’s now time to seize the answer, to know who I am and to be accepting (even proud) of it. This isn’t to say that the questions go away (I fear I’ll be wrestling with the existence, and my concept, of God for quite some time), but life is no longer about the questions. It’s about finding the answer. That statement may seem redundant, but I believe there’s a world of difference between the two, and I believe that you know what I mean by that.
So, thank you, Mr. Alden, and Mr. Blackstock, and everybody else involved with your publication for producing the magazine that I didn’t even know I was looking for (because, really, that is all that the disjointed ramblings preceding this were meant to convey.) I hope for another ten years and beyond of coverage of great music that makes me feel something again, without telling me what beer I should drink or clothes I should wear to be accepted into the alt.country (whatever that is) lifestyle. I hope that someday you will all give us a No Depression library issue of the essential roots music albums that we all should own, because, as you may have guessed from earlier, I have a lot of holes in my CD library to fill now.
Thanks for listening, and thanks for doing what you do. It is appreciated more than this failed writer could ever say.
— Wesley Chicko
On the subject of selling out
I disagree with Joe Henry’s suggestion that the idea of “selling out” is a purely subjective value judgment. Mr. Henry may not have a problem with Ray Charles “shilling for Pepsi,” as he recently told NPR’s Terry Gross in a “Fresh Air” interview, but perhaps he will pardon those of us still too idealistic to see the co-optation of subversive art forms by the corporate power structure as an OK thing.
I’m not much offended by Garth Brooks or Martina McBride hawking Wal-Mart products — who would expect anything better of hacks? Nor does it bother me when Mr. Henry and others turn away from “alternative country” to explore other musical interests. What troubles me is the question Dave Marsh posed in [a 2002 essay titled] “Corporate Sponsorship of Music”: “Is music now so hopelessly compromised it can’t hold credible meaning?”
Mr. Henry may want to check out Matt Callahan’s The Trouble With Music for a more in-depth discussion of what I am talking about.
— Shawn Cote
Fort Fairfield, Maine
Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham:
“Two of music’s finest”
I would like to thank you for your article on Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham in the January-February 2006 issue. It is your coverage of soul legends like Dan and Spooner that make your magazine as excellent as it is.
Dan is a songwriting legend in the music business and it completely amazes me that he is not in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Moments From This Theatre is the best album in my collection and highlights the singing and songwriting talents of these two.
In addition to the albums and artists that are listed in the article, fans of Dan and Spooner would be well-served to find a couple of more albums. On the album Country Soul Revue: Testifying, Dan sings “Chicago Afterwhile” and “Rest Of My Life”. The album also includes cuts by Donnie Fritts, Tony Joe White, George Soule et al. It was recorded between January 31 and February 11, 2004, by Casual Records in Nashville.
Another soul treasure is the Dan Penn album Blue Nite Lounge, which is only available off his website, www.danpenn.com. Dan has a hand in writing all thirteen songs on the album. A special treat for fans of soul music is the answering machine message left by someone at the end of “Rosemound Rain”.
Thank you again for your diverse coverage of music, keeping soul music alive, and bringing attention to Dan and Spooner — truly two of music’s finest.
— Joseph Greget
I’m sure you’ll receive more than your share of these letters…here’s mine. While I can’t really disagree with too many of the fine releases that were included in the Critics’ Poll list, I can’t imagine that the list overlooked my absolute favorite of 2005: Shannon McNally’s Geronimo. I actually had to go back and look to make sure that it wasn’t released in 2004 so I wouldn’t make a (complete) ass of myself. Sleater-Kinney? A bit of a stretch. Kanye West? Well, that’s just being cute. But leaving Geronimo off the list? As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
— Jaimie Muehlhausen
It’s the little things:
And here’s a few of them
Love the new issue [ND #61] but a few questions come to mind:
It says on page 107 that Creedence “topped the charts…” — I thought that was one of the reasons John Fogerty is so angry, i.e. CCR never did so. Not even “Proud Mary” hit #1, ditto “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Travelin’ Band” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”; “Down On The Corner” got to #3, etc.
On page 75 there’s a common Rolling Stones semi-error: “You Got The Silver” was Keith Richards’ first fully solo lead vocal — he exchanged verses with Mick on “Something Happened To Me Yesterday” on Between The Buttons.
Lastly, why on earth is Sheryl Crow in your album top 40? I mean you wouldn’t do an article on her, she isn’t alt by any stretch…true she’s American, but so is Kanye West and Mariah Carey, so…?
— Paul Mills
out west, USA