Pictures at an Exhibition
In the fall, backstage at the Ryman doing my duty for the Americana Music Association’s Honors & Awards Show (thanks again to Dick Clark for the cumbersome name) I ran into an old friend, which is the whole point of going to the thing anyhow. He looked at the t-shirt I was wearing, black because I was working backstage, and at the No Depression logo on my chest. He smiled, briefly. “Get over it, Grant,” Jim said.
I hadn’t really considered my wardrobe choice. It was a black t-shirt. I have rather a lot of those, and now live in a climate which does not invite the wearing of black t-shirts save for a few months; it’s either too hot or too cold. And, inevitably, I ended up with a goodly handful of ND wardrobe options, which I still wear some of the time, mostly to confuse those who didn’t know me then. Which is to say everybody I’m not related to.
He had a point, of course. It has been rather a long time since I was co-publisher of the magazine this website keeps in memory, and just that same amount of time since I quit being an art director and somebody who wrote about music for money. Now I write for my own amusement in a room smaller than my old office into which I still struggle to cram the accumulation of several decades of obsessions with music and design and typography.
We moved into this house almost two years ago and I am still struggling to unpack. Downsizing is not in my nature. So it goes. My problem, not yours.
Three boxes on the floor contain framed No Depression covers. They used to ring my old office, but somehow when the logo changed I ran out of room or frames or something, and quit mounting them. Which is funny, because I like the new logo much better, and think most of those covers are better designed. Once, at a different house, back in Nashville, a German film crew came by. I think to ask me about Nirvana, but it doesn’t matter. One of them looked at the covers on the wall, a smaller number then, a habit I picked up from my days at The Rocket, where our Seattle office was also ringed with the magazine’s covers as a way of remembering (the good and the bad). “Doesn’t that seem arrogant to you?” she asked. I thought it an odd question, wonder still if maybe it was a translation issue. It’s a way of knowing, I tried to explain, but that wasn’t what they’d come for and so I’m the only one in the room still dwelling on the question.
Today, and not because it happens to be New Year’s Day and I’ve sworn off football, but because it happens to be a day off and this happens to be the next thing on my list of things to do so as to see the nice carpet on the floor, I began hanging a few of those covers. Nine, I had promised myself, though the boxes of seven-inch singles sitting atop the CD cases mean the bottom row will be difficult to see until I reckon with that particular madness. Somehow in the move I’ve thrown out or misplaced the flats the printer used to send me for each issue, and so having not framed the new logo — the last three years of our publishing history, I’m going to be obliged to sacrifice a couple from my stock of back issues in the attic. Or to do without.
Anyhow…here’s what I’ve selected, for the moment. Which I share because…because I have time to type, I suppose. Because it amuses me. Because perhaps you will have your own opinions, though I promise only to read them politely and not to alter my arrangement.
Top row, then. Ralph Stanley (photograph by Jim Herrington), which is autographed. Nickel Creek (photograph by Kristina Marie Krug) in the center, framed by our printer to celebrate our tenth anniversary, and so slightly oversized in its mat). And, facing, Buddy Miller (photograph by Thomas Petillo), our final issue. Also autographed; that one’s a fill issue Peter sent me at some point, for which I should again publicly thank him.
Middle row. Loretta Lynn, my Warhol crop from a promo photo because we couldn’t get a usable image. Signed. Jay Farrar (illustration by Glen Hilario), because Glen should be famous, if only in my back office. Dolly Parton (the folk art construction by Tim Shawl), also signed, by way of proving she had a good sense of humor.
Bottom row, when I can get it hung. Johnny Cash (photograph by Charles Peterson, whose photos were among the best Rocket covers, as well), Miranda Lambert (photograph by James Minchin; not a photograph I assigned, but it gave me an opportunity to riff of my old Rocket days). And then, on the right, probably Rosanne Cash (photograph again by Jim Herrington, who really was the best among our best), or Solomon Burke (photographed by Jim Herrington). Depending on what mood I’m in, I suppose.
Which obliges me to leave out Tim Shawl’s “String Theory” cover, which I love, but which also contains within the note I mostly wrote but we all signed explaining that the magazine was about to cease publication.
And so, yes, I still miss it.
I understand that it is over and done, that my days writing about music and designing magazines are over and done. Maybe this other thing I’m writing will be worth publishing some day, if it ever gets finished. Maybe not.
But let me say one more time how indebted I am to Peter Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild, my co-publishers, to every single one of our contributors, and especially to those who took the time to read those 75 print issues. It was fun while it lasted.