Box Full of Letters from Issue #69
“Stick to the music”
I’m somewhat of a newcomer to your publication, and for the most part I really enjoy it. Your articles are well-done and the new artists that I discover keep me enjoying new music that I’d otherwise never have found. But the political overtones that seem to creep into each issue get old.
In the “Box Full of Letters” segment of issue #68 [March-April 2007], one Michael Northius encouraged you to “keep sticking your fingers in the eyes of those lamentably misled rightees.” I guess you have a pretty large cheering section full of folks like Mr. Northius, but what about all the folks in the other sections? Look closely; they’re the ones scratching their heads…and now guarding their eyes!
I realize that you may stand proudly on the “left,” but why are you willing to alienate readers by making things political? In your recent interview with Todd Snider and Will Kimbrough, the questions kept taking things political and it quickly became less about music and more about politics. At least Todd kept trying to chime in and keep things light.
You certainly have the right to print whatever you choose, but rights are really not the issue…the issue is respect, particularly that of your readers.
I am a conservative, but I do not want to see political issues — on either side — in your magazine. Just stick to the music. Please.
— Samuel Morris
“Speak out loud, freely”
Increasingly banal, the Grammy Awards show has become. However, my hat is off to the Dixie Chicks; without playing the game, they still took home the big prize. A job well done. The Grammys had a few bright spots, but all and all it still comes off as pedestrian.
Much rubbish and opinion has been circulating on the news and in papers about them winning these Grammys. Blame has been pointed at everybody from the Dixie Chicks to the politicians, and anyone else with influence. Remember, our First Amendment gives us the privilege to think and speak out loud, freely. You would hope that respect would be in the mix or on the tip of our tongues when we voice our beliefs.
Like everybody else, the Dixie Chicks have an opinion. I’m not a music fan of the Dixie Chicks; I think they are talented, but their music does not speak to me like other music does. I would not send them threatening letters or find ways to sanction their music just because we differ.
I do appreciate the message in “Not Ready To Make Nice”. There are more people that are mad as hell at President Bush, other than just the Dixie Chicks. Dylan and Springsteen’s music did not speak to me when I was younger; now I have an understanding, it moves me now. Views and opinions will change all the time. Look at our government, our world, our neighbors. “Saturday Night Live”, Dave Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and countless others ridicule the President of the United States all the time. I don’t see these people being criticized or deterred from continuing to do so.
I think it is OK to be proud of the United States, of our country, and not be happy with those who presently represent and stand for our leadership. All the presidents make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes, some more grave than others. Let us hope that we all continue to find and use diplomatic solutions instead of militancy and oppression. I know that is a very thin line. That is why I call it hope.
Our next President, regardless of being Republican, Democrat, black, white, female, male, left or right, is going to need all the help he or she can get. Perfection is not a singular accomplishment. Even the Constitution of the United States reads, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”
— Scott Michael Anderson
Windsor, New York
Thoughts on Dylan and Young
When it takes five years to begin to appreciate Love And Theft, news of the arrival of yet another Dylan “masterpiece” doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm. Or so it was with me. Happily, if somewhat to the chagrin of the contrarian in me, I have found Modern Times to be not only more accessible than its predecessor but also nearly as good as the critical establishment says it is — though, as an ambivalent Dylan fan at best, I respect Alden and Blackstock for bucking the consensus on this one [ND #67, January-February 2007].
Whether in fact it really is the best album of 2006 is open for debate, an argument that I, having heard only three of the 60 albums on your year-end list, can’t join. Maybe the new album isn’t a lot of things I’d like it to be — more topical, less arcane — but that probably says more about my prejudices than anything else. Apart from the left-field Alicia Keys reference in “Thunder On The Mountain”, which has the unfortunate effect of dating an otherwise timeless-sounding record, Modern Times succeeds admirably on its own terms, if not mine.
I only wish the same thing could be said for Neil Young’s Living With War. I wanted to like this album, I agree wholeheartedly with much of what it says, but I just can’t get past the shoddy craftsmanship and half-baked ideas that keep it from being what it should have been.
Young reportedly justified this lack of finesse to David Crosby by saying he didn’t want to use any of his good shit talking about George Bush. I believe it. But he need only revisit his own song “Ohio” to see that outrage and artistry are not mutually exclusive. How the new album made on to your list when worthier efforts like Gob Iron’s Death Songs For The Living didn’t, I don’t know. (And, incidentally, where the hell was Neil when Steve Earle, Iris DeMent and the Dixie Chicks were all taking it in the neck for opposing the madness of King George?)
And too bad about Lucinda Williams. Was a time when Ms. Williams seemed incapable of making a bad or uneven album. Now she finds it necessary to defend her increasingly banal and solipsistic work by casting herself as another misunderstood genius a la Dylan and Young. Only Joni Mitchell is good enough to get away with that kind of arrogance. If allowed to go unchecked, Ms. Williams’ ego may one day eclipse her not inconsiderable talent.
— Shawn Cote
Fort Fairfield, Maine
All the fixins:
John Carter Cash, who produced Carlene Carter’s new record, is Carlene’s half-brother, not her stepbrother as we stated in our feature story on her in our March-April issue (thanks to Perry Lamek for pointing this out)….In the David Bromberg feature in the same issue, we incorrectly identified Wilmington as the capital city of Delaware. It is, of course, Dover (thanks to Wilmington resident Tony Allen for the heads-up).