Field Reportings from Issue #21
“No Depression” history revises itself
For years now, we’ve been explaining to folks who ask about our magazine’s name that it’s derived from: 1) a Carter Family song from the 1930s called “No Depression in Heaven” written by A.P. Carter; 2) The title of Uncle Tupelo’s debut album in 1990 containing a cover version of that song; and 3) a message board on America Online named “No Depression/Alternative Country”. All of which is correct — except, apparently, the “written by A.P Carter” part.
In the “Field Reportings” section of our previous issue [ND #20, March-April 1999], we mentioned that Old Homestead Records had recently reissued an album titled The Original Carter Family, From 1936 Radio Transcripts, that “contains the only known recorded version of the Carter Family’s original version of A.P. Carter’s ‘No Depression In Heaven’.” This prompted a letter from renowned country music scholar Bill Malone of Madison, Wisconsin, author of the landmark historical tome Country Music USA, who informed us: “I have an LP called More Favorites By The Carter Family that includes the song. It is Decca DL 4557.” (That album is long out-of-print, so the recent Old Homestead reissue remains the only in-print source for a Carter Family version of the tune.)
Much more importantly, however, was what Malone said in the next paragraph of his letter: “A.P. Carter did not write the song. He actually didn’t write very much at all, except for ‘working up’ old stuff that he found. The author was J.D. Vaughan, one of the pioneers of southern gospel music. Vaughan wrote some great lyrics, many of which made their way into country music.”
Not that we were about to doubt Malone, a certified expert in the field — but it seemed startling that not only does Uncle Tupelo’s 1990 album credit the song to Carter, but so does the original vinyl release of The Original Carter Family, From 1936 Radio Transcripts. (We’re not certain who is credited for the version that appears on the New Lost City Ramblers’ Folkways album Songs Of The Great Depression, which Malone says is “the version thatintroduced the song to the modern folk music public.”)
We asked Malone where he had originally learned the true source of “No Depression In Heaven”, to which he responded: “I found the song in a songbook published by James D. Vaughan, Sweet Heaven, (Lawrenceburg, Tenn., circa 1932). The official title is ‘There’s No Depression In Heaven’, and a headnote reads, ‘Theme suggested by Roland Shadowens.’ The song is copyrighted 1932, and so I assume that the book is the same date. There is no publication date listed on the title page. The three verses sung by the Carter Family are found here (with some modifications), and there is an extra verse that they don’t sing.”
File this one under, “Learn something new every day.” Many thanks for setting us straight, Mr. Malone.
PARSONS PROJECT: Almo Sounds is set to release Return Of The Grievous Angel: A Tribute To Gram Parsons on July 13. Co-produced by Parsons’ former bandmate Emmylou Harris, the disc will benefit the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundations’ Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Though this isn’t the first Parsons tribute to hit the shelves — Rhino released Conmemorativo in 1993 featuring the likes of the Mekons, Bob Mould & Vic Chesnutt, and several others — it’s the first that has involved Harris. The track listing is as follows: “She”, the Pretenders & Emmylou Harris; “Ooh Las Vegas”, Cowboy Junkies; “Sin City”, Beck & Emmylou Harris, $1000 Wedding”, Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield; “Hot Burrito #1”, the Mavericks; “High Fashion Queen”, Chris Hillman & Steve Earle; “Juanita”, Sheryl Crow & Emmylou Harris; “Sleepless Nights”, Elvis Costello; “Return Of The Grievous Angel”, Lucinda Williams & David Crosby; “A Song For You”, Whiskeytown; “100 Years”, Wilco; “Hickory Wind”, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings; “In My Hour Of Darkness”, the Rolling Creekdippers.
FESTIVE FARE: The third annual Twangfest, organized by members of the Postcard2 internet mailing list, is June 10-12 at Off Broadway nightclub in St. Louis. This year’s lineup features: Thursday, June 10, the V-Roys, Jim Roll, Deliberate Strangers, Cadillac Cowgirl, and Elena Skye & the Demolition String Band; Friday, June 11, Damnations TX, Jim Stringer & the Austin Music Band, Hayseed, Gypsy Mechanics, and Old Rip; Saturday, June 12, Dale Watson & His Lone Stars, Ex-Husbands, Buck Diaz, Heartbreak Hill, and Polish Hillbillies.
TEN SECOND NEWS: The debut solo album from Mike Ness of country-influenced punk band Social Distortion, released April 13 on Time Bomb Recordings, includes a vocal appearance by Bruce Springsteen on the song “Misery Loves Company”. …
New York City roots-rockers the Hangdogs have signed with Shanachie, which plans a spring reissue of the group’s self-released 1997 disc East Of Yesterday. (The first 8,000 copies will also include a copy of their ’96 debut EP Same Old Story.)…
Also back in the racks after a three-year absence is Richard Buckner’s Bloomed, originally released in 1995 on now-defunct Dejadisc. Slow River/Rykodisc is reissuing the record on May 18 with five bonus tracks and new artwork.
ALL THE FIXINS: On page 80 of a story on Hazel Dickens in ND #20 [March-April ’99], a photo caption identified one of the people in the photo as Sarah Ogan Gunning. Her middle name is properly spelled Ogun….
Also in ND #20, a review of the self-titled record by the Okra All-Stars on Innerstate Records claimed that the album was “previously unreleased”. Jeff Hall of radio station WVUD reports that the album was originally released on Okra Records a few years ago.