Hello Stranger from Issue #59
“Today Belleville; tomorrow, the world…”
— ND #1
Though we both signed it, Peter must have written our initial column in this space, for his name appears first and I can only remember being too tired to think straight.
Rather like this morning, in fact.
But we had no idea.
We had no idea that our little hobby would see three friends from Seattle through, let’s see…twelve addresses (in five states), two marriages, two children, and the growing number who have come so patiently and faithfully to our pages over the last ten years.
We had no idea that so many would come to be so attached to our little magazine.
We are deeply grateful.
And, of course, we now have a little explaining to do, with a twinkle in our eyes. With this, the first issue of our next decade, we have made a few improvements. We have a new logo, which is, of course, our insidious plot to make faithful readers buy more T-shirts, and an attempt to be more visible on newsstands. And we have a new design for the interior pages, to which I shall return presently.
The big change — or the most minor of alterations, perhaps — is our formal retirement of the phrase “alt.country (whatever that is)” on the front cover. That particular bit of ironic whimsy (we started a magazine tangentially about country music in Seattle, of all places, at the tail end of the grunge era) has confounded academics, annoyed musicians, and proved less and less descriptive of No Depression as it evolved.
And so we will settle for being what we have become — an American music magazine (the cover phrase, “the past, present and future of American music,” suggested by longtime contributing editor Roy Kasten) surveying the best of the various musics rooted in the disparate traditions of this continent. This reflects no particular change in our content, nor in our approach, nor even in our focus. It’s just a more accurate description of what we have become.
It certainly does not mean we’ve abandoned our roots. With this issue, as with all its predecessors, Peter and I have chosen the content based on our (quite different) tastes. At the end of the process, unintended patterns emerge. We did consciously choose to interview Jay Farrar for this issue about the second iteration of Son Volt, for the first lineup had adorned our debut cover.
The rest is mostly an accident of scheduling, but it is nevertheless gratifying to see Harry Stinson, one of the partners in Dead Reckoning (the first and only label to be profiled in these pages, in ND #1, and one of the worst and most ill-informed pieces I’ve ever written), resurface in Marty Stuart’s superlative band. The new Freakwater album (my feature in ND #2) is highlighted in one of the review section’s new Hot Wax sidebars. There’s also review of the latest from first-issue veterans the Waco Brothers, who will close out our string of ten anniversary shows in September with a show in Seattle on the 25th. Indeed, the pages are filled with old friends.
But as we have grown, so has our awareness of music beyond that 1995 post-punk flowering of roots revival. The unintended thread in this issue which gives me most pleasure are the three long stories about child prodigies who have, against considerable odds, gone on to vital, far-ranging and rewarding careers. We find Nickel Creek, Charlie Sexton, and Marty Stuart at different stages in their lives, of course, but their ceaseless creativity is inspiring.
That Nickel Creek is on our tenth anniversary cover signifies nothing more than the headline on the article says: It’s about the music. It always has been, and will be so long as you all keep reading these pages. We’ll quarrel about the music, of course; that’s the fun of it. And some artists we’re excited about will resonate more strongly with you than others; that, too, is as it should be.
Most of what I have to say about how these pages look I shall try to confine to the blogs we’re adding to our redesigned website. And, yes, we’ll also offer some music to download there. That redesign should be live about the time you receive this issue, give or take a week or so (and the vagaries of the postal service).
This print redesign would not have been possible without the immensely helpful counsel of the two real designers who have mentored, guided, and chided me for several decades of friendship. Though Art Chantry and Jesse Marinoff Reyes are responsible for none of my choices, they have kindly helped shape my flailing sketches into…something.
I should like also to acknowledge a profound debt to my co-editor, Peter Blackstock, whose willingness to step off the pier into the deep, black waters of independent publishing has made this magazine possible, and not just idle, beer-stained chat. And our third partner, Kyla Fairchild, without whose business acumen our little hobby might well have remained a little hobby. All of us would like to thank our spouses for enduring deadline weeks with (or, more properly, without) us, and for the calming wisdom they have offered over the years.
But mostly, thank you for reading. And let us know what you think, eh?