Hello Stranger: Introducing Our Winter 2019 ‘Vision’ Journal
Cover image by Nicole Atkins; design by Marcus Amaker
Our Winter 2019 “Vision” print journal is shipping to subscribers now, and we’d love to add you to our mailing list. Subscribe here and we’ll send you our Winter 2019 journal — AND you’ll be supporting the great roots music journalism in No Depression‘s journals as well as online every day.
Not to brag or anything, but I’ve always had perfect vision. Better than perfect, really. Even though both of my parents got glasses as children, I sauntered through some genetic loophole to enjoy 20/15 vision.
Ironically, I actually wanted glasses as a kid. Thick frames and colorful lenses have always accentuated my face pretty well, and the concept of one regular statement piece accessory appealed to my lazy (lack of) fashion. But mostly I think I just wanted some physical marker to show me how to see the world in different ways.
These days, a polarized pair of Ray-Ban sunnies is my go-to for glasses, but I consciously try to keep my eyes — and ears — open for new stories, sounds, ideas, and ways of thinking. And for this issue of No Depression, we embraced all of these topics under the auspices of “Vision.”
At first, it might seem strange to focus on the visual elements of roots music, a primarily aural medium. We first engage with songs through our ears. We hear plucked strings, tapped percussion, and projected voices carrying melodies or harmonizing together. If it’s loud, we can feel rumbling or reverberations from our feet to our cores; if we’re lucky, we might enjoy a fleeting sense of peace emanating from within.
Sight adds a whole other dimension to the way we experience roots music. As patrons and concertgoers, we read liner notes and lyrics, study album art, and watch performances happen in real time right in front of us. Musicians, too, see their visual choices as part of their identities, both on records and on stage.
The “Vision” issue explores these concepts and so much more. Visually, we made a conscious effort to find exclusive photos (like those by Wyatt McSpadden for the new North Mississippi Allstars record) and innovative illustrators (like Dylan Goldberger, whose pun-filled takes on country musicians are featured on the inside of this issue’s covers) and share them on our 100% recycled pages for an especially aesthetically pleasing book.Editorially, the issue highlights other facets of roots music that require our eyes, as well as one that takes away that visual element. Some songwriters, like cover artist Nicole Atkins, Scott Avett, and Andrew Combs, make visual art in addition to their music. Others, like Yola, Lillie Mae, Mary Gauthier, Kaia Kater, and Orville Peck, use fashion to help heighten the messages of their music. Stories in this issue also dig into set design, television shows, comic books, board games, and even tour merch featuring submissions from No Depression readers!
Still, there’s a metaphorical element to “Vision” that also warrants consideration. During a strange and fortuitous crossing of tour routes this summer, I found myself at a bar in in Copenhagen with members of the rock band Eels, singer-songwriters Robert Ellis and Raye Zaragoza, and a few tour managers and road techs. Pretty quickly, conversation turned to how crazy it is to exist and create as a human being in the music industry these days. The fears and hopes we all shared, albeit from slightly different perspectives, stuck with me after I returned stateside, inspiring me once again to challenge the breadth of this issue’s theme. Luckily, Ellis, the Texas Piano Man himself, expanded on his thoughts on performing from that smoky Danish bar to close this issue with his vision for roots music today.
Literally or figuratively, the concept of vision serves as a good reminder: Even though we all go through life seeing things our own ways, we can learn so much about each other just by sitting back and listening.
Check out our Spotify playlist featuring artists mentioned in the Winter 2019 “Vision” issue, and be sure to follow us on Spotify for new releases playlists and more, updated frequently!