Friday, May 30, 2008

Life after No Depression

The final issue of No Depression is on the newstands with Buddy Miller on the cover.

Okay, a few things here. If you don't know what No Depression is, it's a music magazine that's been around for about ten years that covers American music, and by American I mean that place in America where rock, country, folk, the blues, and even punk all merge. It was named after (pick one):
  • No Depression in Heaven, a 1936 song popularized by the Carter Family
  • No Depression (album), a 1990 album by the alternative country band Uncle Tupelo
  • No Depression, a term used synonymously for alternative country music.
The song by Uncle Tupelo goes like this:

And if you don't know who Buddy Miller is, you've got one good chance to learn all about this pillar of American music 'cause you've got one more chance to hold the actual paper in your hands. I suggest if you really love music, any kind of music, you go pick one up and read it cover to cover. Not just for the great reviews and feature stories of some of the most amazing, talented artists in the country today, but also for the heartfelt letters saying goodbye and what the magazine has meant to readers and even the ads of companies saying thanks for all the great years.

But, life goes on, and darn, if I've learned one thing it's get up every morning because you don't know what's going to happen in the day.

Life for No Depression is going to go on, in the digital world. And if that doesn't make my heart skip a beat, I don't know what does. I love the music, I love the life, and I love the digital world. It's where we're all going, and I'm glad Grant and Peter, the two founders, decided to do this. They're smart guys, and they're going slow, as they should. Too many people dive into the digital world, not knowing what they're doing and where they're going. It seems Grant and Peter want to replicate the magazine online, which is a good start, but hopefully they'll see they can do so much more online.

So they're going online but they also have a deal with the University of Texas to print what they're calling a "bookazine." It will be more in line with the other books they put out, their introduction to alternative music and the best of ND.

As everyone knows, the Web's audience is short attention, click here, click there, link this, link that, and long, thoughtful, well-written copy like you'd find in the magazine may not do so well on the Web. So they're going to use the bookazines as a outlet for some of their longer stuff.

But still, check out the introduction to a review of Alejandro Escovedo. (And if you don't know who he is, you definitely need to start connecting with ND. And don't freak, a year ago I didn't know this stuff. ND is a great university for alt/indie music, whatever that is.)

I still remember the dreary January afternoon, ten years ago, when Grant showed me the mock-up of the cover of ND #14. It was the day before the magazine was due at the printer and I was helping with some last-minute proofreading. When I saw the words "Alejandro Escovedo: Artist of the decade" splayed to the right of Glenn Hilario's illustration, my first thought was, "You gotta be kidding. Alejandro is terrific, but what about, I dunno, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle or Lucinda Williams? Or maybe an omnibus nod to '90s alt-country progenitors Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and Wilco?"

Grant had recently moved to Nashville and we were working in his second-floor apartment above a garage in southwest Nashville. When I asked him about the thinking behind the decision to lionize Alejandro in this way, he shrugged and said that there were just some artists you went to the mat for, and that "Al" was one of them.

Something to that effect anyway. Grant cited a couple-three other names as examples -- Billy Joe Shaver, the Bottle Rockets, maybe Steve Earle -- before going on to say that making the announcement two years before the decade ended was sure to get people talking, not to mention attract attention to a deserving and largely unsung artist.

So, you're into the music, right? You want to learn more, because all this sounds so cool, right? Last thing, go take the survey on the ND site to help Grant and Peter get a better idea of what direction they should be taking this project.

The Web ain't all about selling shit and surfing for porn. And ND the digital version is going to a great new neighbor, you mark my words.


Jay said...

Sorry to see the magazine go, but hopefully the web site will continue to bring great content. Buddy Miller is a great choice for the last cover. He is an amazing musician and hopefully more will learn about him!

John Greiner-Ferris said...

that's your steve earle site?...very cool...

Jay said...

Thanks! I'm just getting started with it.

Christine said...

Hey - I found the No Depression vol. 2 compilation at Newbury Comics last night (that location at the top of Washington St. by City Hall is closing). Been listening to it this morning and thought of you because you're the one who told me about ND. Good stuff.

John Greiner-Ferris said...

hey's been a busy week...didn't know this compilation so i googled it real quick...yeah, there's some good stuff on there...saw jay farrar just a couple of weeks ago at the mfa with his band, son volt...i love caitlin cary, she was the other (better) half of whiskeytown with ryan by truckers are great, i think...there's some stuff on there i'd like to check out, just carries you through a day, doesn't it?--good and bad...

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