Hello Stranger from Issue #70
So it wasn’t enough that we went and put a chart-topping (well, #2 on the pop charts, anyhow) indie-rock band on our cover a couple issues ago. We had to go follow it up by putting a chart-topping mainstream-country artist on the cover of our last issue. And now — well, she’s not on the cover, but are we really giving six pages of feature space to a chart-topping teen-pop singer?
Yeah, we are. But, uh, well…Mandy Moore’s new record is actually quite good, honest. It’s also quite possible, as it happens, that this record won’t get anywhere near the top of the charts; that doesn’t seem to be any sort of goal for Moore nowadays.
Even so, as my co-editor pointed out in this space the previous two issues, we have no interest in automatically eliminating from our purview any act that has reached a certain level of record sales or public notoriety.
The difference between ND and most mainstream music publications is, of course, that while we both might cover the Shins or Miranda Lambert or Mandy Moore, the mass-media magazines are unlikely to give significant space to, say, a sideman such as Fats Kaplin (p. 8), or a roots-music event such as Merlefest (p. 16), or a family bluegrass act such as Cherryholmes (p. 42).
And they darned sure aren’t gonna put a 79-year-old performer of traditional country music on their cover.
Indeed, one of the hallmarks of our twelve-year history has been a commitment to covering artists who are generally perceived by our culture to be “not young enough for prime time,” as it were. Over the years our cover subjects have included Ralph Stanley (when he was 71), Merle Haggard (at 63). Billy Joe Shaver (at 61), Isaac Freeman (at 73), Johnny Cash (at 70), Loretta Lynn (at 70), Willie Nelson (at 71), and Kris Kristofferson (at 69).
We’ve also had plenty of much younger artists on our cover, of course. The point being that age need not be a deciding factor in our coverage choices — just as mainstream recognizability (or lack thereof) need not be. (And it’s worth noting that many of the older artists who have been on our cover also happen to be universally recognizable celebrities.)
So just humor us, if you will, by accepting the notion of a music magazine that can cover Porter Wagoner and Mandy Moore under the same umbrella.
Age vs. youth, by the way, has been a rising tug-of-war in recent years at Merlefest, as our correspondent Jerry Withrow notes in his review of the festival this issue. I’d reviewed Merlefest for us the past several years but gladly handed over that duty to Jerry this year, in part to spend more time working at our booth, and in part for the value in getting another writer’s perspective.
Jerry definitely had an eye for some things I might well have missed — but the increasing degree to which the Merlefest old guard is ceding ground to the next wave seems pretty clear to everyone who has attended the event regularly this decade. And that’s a good thing, by the way, largely because the new kids seem to have learned a great deal from their forbears.
A Saturday morning “New Generations Jam” on the festival’s Watson Stage felt rather like a passing-of-the-torch in many respects. Members of the Duhks, Uncle Earl, Crooked Still and others ambled on and off the stage from song to song for a loosely structured but infectiously entertaining hour-and-a-half set, all of them reveling in the opportunity to, well, just go have fun together onstage.
And, youthful upstart or elder statesman, underground antihero or multiplatinum superstar…at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about.
A brief housekeeping item to wrap things up:
You may have noticed in recent months that we’re now keeping (and regularly updating) a fairly extensive list of upcoming releases on our website (www.nodepression.net). We’re also preparing to launch an additional page that will feature various bits and pieces of news that we deem worthy of quick attention.
Some of these items may be press-release copy passed along verbatim as opposed to the original reporting and deliberative writing and reviewing you’ll find in our print pages; the goal is simply to relay priority information as quickly and directly as possible.
It’s also possible to sample some songs from the artists we cover in the magazine on the website’s “Hear The Music” page. And there’s also my co-editor’s blog (“Grant’s Rants”) and mine (“Peter’s Postscripts”) which we update regularly with our ramblings on everything from music to politics to sports to llamas to fruit orchards. All of our favorite things, and then some.