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No Depression, RIP

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One of my favorite publications, the music mag No Depression, is about to close its doors. Initially devoted to "alternative country (whatever that is)," the magazine soon covered a whole spectrum of American roots music, defined as broadly as the editors' very catholic tastes allowed. Now it is a victim of industry turmoil. "In this evolving downloadable world," the editors write, "what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print….What makes this especially painful and particularly frustrating is that our readership has not significantly declined, our newsstand sell-through remains among the best in our portion of the industry, and our passion for and pleasure in the music has in no way diminished. We still have shelves full of first-rate music we'd love to tell you about."

It's a shame. There's a lot of wonderful music writing online, but there is a particular pleasure in perusing a magazine that covers a wide breadth of topics that somehow, in the editors' hands, all feel like they're part of a whole. Every issue I read both taught me new things and deepened my appreciation for the things I already knew. The No Depression website will continue—appropriately, since the magazine itself emerged from a discussion group on AOL—but it looks like the site won't include nearly as much content as the journal that birthed it.

I wrote around a half-dozen articles for ND over the last 10 years, mostly record reviews. It didn't pay very well, but that wasn't the point—I wrote for it because I liked to see my writing there. (Well, that and the free subscription.) Any magazine whose definition of country music was eclectic enough to let me expound on the Kinks, the Pogues, and the 1970s Florida funk scene is fine by me. I miss it already.

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  1. Jesse, it was giving free copy to you that sunk them.

  2. While they wouldn’t presume to fill the gap No Depression will leave, the fine people at Austin Sound are carrying on the good work for bands in Austin and Texas:

    http://www.austinsound.net/

  3. “alternative country” (whatever that is)

    Perhaps, Big Country? Here’s “In A Big Country”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Si4oGXB79E

    Live version:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw2o_Go4QWI

    (I’m probably gonna get kicked off this blog if I don’t cool it.)

  4. That “alternative country Americana” crap is nothing but a bourgeois minstrel show anyways.

  5. If it weren’t for No Depression, I would’ve never learned that Smokey from the Big Lebowski was actually an underground country legend (Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders).

    “This isn’t ‘Nam, Smokey. It’s bowling. There are rules.”

  6. Did I see anything from Reason lamenting the passing of Punk Planet? No. In retribution, you will see nothing at Urkobold about the end of No Depression.

    Although I never read the mag, I think my tastes probably crossed over with theirs quite often. I am not happy to hear that they are gone. NPR just had a piece with one of the No Depression guys.

  7. …and the 1970s Florida funk scene

    No shit?

    Hey, if you still have a copy of the article floating around, i’d love to check it out

    i’m sort of a funk enthusiast

  8. p.s. I thought alt-country was like… starting with grahm parsons, the outlaws, steve earle etc? I never liked calling music ‘alt’ anything, personally

  9. I periodically (pun intended) picked it up over the years. While I shared ND’s (and Jesse’s) passion for the music, I was always put off by the magazine’s smug left-wing politics, which they trumpeted at every opportunity without the slightest regard for pretext.
    Music coverage aside, No Depression embraced the most sophmoric brand of liberalism this side of Rolling Stone. Still, it filled a need, and it will be missed.

  10. That “alternative country Americana” crap is nothing but a bourgeois minstrel show anyways.

    That describes a few truck- and death-obsessed cowpunk bands, but not the entire alt-country universe. (Unless you think any faux-proletarian imagery is a bourgeois minstrel show, in which case you can write off 95% of America’s country music and 75% of the rock.)

    Hey, if you still have a copy of the article floating around, i’d love to check it out

    I don’t think it’s online, unfortunately. But it was in the September-October ’07 issue, page 87. Or if you’d just like to hear the CD that I was writing about, it’s here.

  11. Actually, I still probably have a Word doc of the manuscript I sent them. If you email me privately I’ll see if I can dig it up for you.

  12. I always bypassed No Depression on the newsstands for mags that came with promo CD’s.

  13. “restore reading to the center of American culture.”

    What you’re doing here on Reason isn’t “reading”. And when you type in comments, or email people, you’re not “writing”. These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

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