Box Full of Letters from Issue #71
Not to worry, no features on Britney or Paris planned
When I first started to read No Depression it was what Rolling Stone was to me in the ’60s. I realize the music business and music tastes are changing, but why does No Depression have to become so commercial?
Great to See Porter Wagoner on the cover [ND #70, July-August 2007], but that is no reason to add Mandy Moore. What’s next, Britney or Paris?
You have great acts like Poco, Tom Rush, James Talley, Brian Burns, etc. that should be in your magazine before the likes of Mandy Moore.
Come on folks, get back to the great magazine we all expect and subscribe for!
— Tom White
[Editor’s note: For a reply regarding this letter, see co-editor Peter Blackstock’s blog entry of July 17 at our website, www.nodepression.net]
In defense of Easy Tiger
After reading John Milward’s review of Easy Tiger, the new Ryan Adams album [ND #70], I felt compelled to present an ‘alternate take.’ First, I have to thank Mr. Milward for comparing Ryan Adams to Neil Young, because they are both great storytellers and prolific songwriters.
I was one of the Ryan Adams fans who, upon hearing his 2005 release Cold Roses for the first time, thought “I wonder how long the Cardinals are going to last.” I found it difficult to connect with the music and set the discs aside for several months. Later that year, on a rainy day, I gave the music another chance and fell hard for the melodies, the lyrics, the sonic variety, the instrumentation, the production…you get the idea. I loved the genre-bending nature of the music, and how organically each song’s instrumentation and production felt. Instead of attempting to redefine alt-country for the mass market, Ryan walked in backwards like he was walkin’ out and gave us the real deal without a hard sell.
When Jacksonville City Nights came along later that year, the music seemed very cinematic. While listening I found myself imagining scenes with fields and trains and trees and pickup trucks — the sort of stuff country music has always shown. Instead of feeling like this was covering old ground, I heard respect for tradition and something else, integrity seems the right word, an honest set of stories that spoke from some unusual points of view. “Dear John” is still one of the most unique stories and shows Ryan’s ability to speak with more than one voice. I continued to wonder if the Cardinals were a passing fad with Ryan. Would he get bored and do another rock record?
Skip forward to 2007, and we are hearing Easy Tiger for the first time. Those of us fans who have a bittorrent jones have been listening to some of these songs since last summer. The first time I heard Ryan sing “Blue Hotel”, I loved the image of “wandering from door to door” and had the sensation of discovering new levels of meaning and new levels of emotional connection with the music. As that tour continued from the States to Europe, it was inspiring to hear the new songs (“Goodnight Rose”, “Two”, “Everybody Knows”, and so on) unveiled and tested and morphed and reborn in different venues and occasionally with different instrumentation. Some of the unplugged shows from the European tour show an artist that folks who only hear the commercial releases probably wouldn’t recognize.
It’s difficult to avoid being cynical about recording artists’ motives and aspirations. When I hear an artist who stops trying to be real and just does it, I hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride. Ryan Adams is one of the few artists who comes across (to me) as one who tells great stories and takes great care in telling them in an engaging, convincing, and sometimes heartrending manner.
Is Easy Tiger a great album? We won’t know that until it gets a chance to be heard and absorbed and lived with. Is it a frustrating album? Not to this fan. For me it is another chance to let the music take me somewhere new. If I allow myself to be vulnerable, doubtless I’ll get hurt sometimes. But what other choice is there?
— Bob Caldwell
ALL THE FIXINS:
Thanks to reader Paul Flemming of Tallahassee, Florida, for pointing out that we misspelled several town names (Cabool, Reeds Spring, Poplar Bluff, Rogersville, Koshkonong) in last issue’s cover story on Porter Wagoner. Fleming also noted that the writer of “Company’s Comin” is Johnny Mullins (not Mullin), and that “the Missouri tribe of Native Americans is not indigenous to the Ozarks — they lived up around Nebraska, at least until the smallpox got ’em.”