Hello Stranger from Issue #8
Red-eyed and blue here at ND headquarters on a Sunday night/Monday morning once again, the craziness is a bit more toward the ridiculous side of insanity this time. Suffice to say that when we started this thing at 32 pages and quarterly in September ’95, we didn’t expect to be at 120 pages and bimonthly a year and a half later. Which is all well and good. But, at this very moment, boy are we tired.
Some frazzled thoughts, thus, on the multitude of pages that follow:
Many things seemed to be coming back around and connecting to each other throughout this issue. Co-editor Grant Alden’s “Find That Band” blurb on Billy Faier somehow ended up vaguely related to his cover story on the Bad Livers. A feature on Mickey Newbury was intentionally paired with one on Guy Clark, but coincidentally seemed almost more attuned to one on Jimmy Webb, another fellow tunesmith whose songs are more famous than the writer. A feature on Jack Ingram discussed Steve Earle’s production of his new record, while elsewhere Alice Wheeler’s photo of Earle in the studio with the Supersuckers accompanied a feature on that band.
And running like a magic thread throughout was Townes Van Zandt. A couple of last-minute changes and unexpected production delays allowed us to pay respects to Townes in ND #7, but there was clearly more ground to cover given the time to do so. Michael Eck’s excellent essay, an emergency backup for the Richard Dobson piece we ran last issue, was so good it deserved a spot on this issue’s “Screen Door” page. A reissue of Rear View Mirror and a new release, The Highway Kind, put Townes in both the “Waxed” and “Not Fade Away” review sessions. The stories on Clark and Newbury, two of Townes’ dearest friends, left his legacy on “The Long Cut” feature pages A review of the two-night Townes tribute concert at Austin’s Cactus Cafe (one of seven such events that have taken place across the country since Townes’ death on New Year’s Day) was the obvious choice to lead the “Miked” section. And news of other Townes projects in the works warranted mention in “Ten Second News.” His presence runs cover to cover. Which is as it should be.
One final anecdote to impart before the cobwebs overtake the brain cells. A lot of what keeps us going on these mad-scramble-to-the-finish-line production weekends is a sort of tag-team operation of the stereo, Grant and I turning each other on to whatever’s been floating our respective boats lately. Kurt Wolff’s Mickey Newbury article had recently inspired me to finally check out Newbury’s Frisco Mabel Joy, which I’d bought some time back at a used vinyl store but had never gotten around to placing on the turntable. The thing was a revelation: a slice of glorious, timeless beauty, the kind of discovery that reminds you why it’s important to keep listening for secrets both old and new, until you find music that you’d never be the same without.
Saturday afternoon I felt a Newbury jones coming on, so I drove down to Recordfinders at Melrose and Gower, the greatest record store in America, where, sure enough, they had darn near the whole Mickey Newbury catalog on vinyl. I walked out significantly poorer wallet-wise but with half a dozen new adventures to explore, which, side by side by side, kept us going for much of the weekend. Grant’s review of Son Volt’s Straightaways suggested Jay Farrar could well produce “several handfuls of records that will all be close kin over the next few decades,” and that’s the feeling I get from Newbury’s albums: Within the first few seconds of the needle dropping into the groove, Newbury’s essence had saturated the room in its elegant, elusive, distinctive glow, each album a treasure of new songs, yet each an inseparable companion to the last.
Now, as the wee hours creeping ever further and work still to be done, side one of Frisco Mabel Joy is again the mood of the moment. “I once had a lot, but the future is not what it used to be.” Amen, and goodnight.