Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Hello Stranger - Editor's Note from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Hello Stranger

The more I write, the less I really know what happens. You get an idea for a song. Well, where does that come from? I don’t know. You just hear a phrase or a little something that just catches you; it’s almost like somebody else takes over and does it. It’s not actually me. I’m the fella that does the guy’s interviews, I make his records for him, I put the chords together, but it’s not really me, not the good stuff. If this guy, this feeling, whatever it is, doesn’t come around for awhile, then I’ll say to myself, well, I know how to do it, I’ve seen the guy doing it, I’ll write a song. But my stuff, the guy who’s talking to you right now, does terrible impersonations of his stuff. His stuff is way better than mine. I know this sounds really pretentious and bad, but it’s not an original thought. I’ve heard lots of people, painters and writers, describe in different words exactly the same thing.

– Nick Lowe

That little bit of wisdom came from the interview contributing editor David Cantwell conducted with Nick Lowe for the lengthy feature story in this issue. Though Cantwell couldn’t quite find the right place to work those thoughts into his article, he passed them along to us on the off-chance they might serve a purpose in some way or another.

As often happens when we’re putting together an issue of No Depression, its various pieces end up referring to each other in ways we might not have envisioned. In this instance, Lowe’s leftover passage led me to ponder the paths of Gillian Welch, whose new album Time (The Revelator) is the subject of our cover story, and Ryan Adams, whose new album Gold is reviewed in the Waxed section.

A year ago, Welch and Adams seemed on a similar track, enough so that Adams’ solo debut Heartbreaker featured Welch and her partner David Rawlings prominently. Adams had moved to Nashville, and they did some shows together, sometimes exploring rawer, noisier avenues (not unlike the Welch/Rawlings side-project the Esquires), sometimes pursuing starkly acoustic visions (including an Adams solo show in which he and Welch dueted on her new album’s classic opening track, “Revelator”).

Welch and Rawlings subsequently spent their time mostly in Nashville finishing up their album, just the two of them recording in the studio, and reclaiming their music from the major-label ranks by forming Acony Records. Adams, who signed with new Mercury imprint Lost Highway shortly after his one-off Bloodshot deal for Heartbreaker, wound up largely gravitating toward Hollywood, taking up at least part-time residence in Los Angeles and making Gold out there with a broad cast of supporting players and guest artists.

The resulting records are about as different as night and day.

My initial assessment of Time (The Revelator), after having spent a few days with it, was that it is the first great record of this decade. After having spent a few weeks with it, I’m inclined to suggest it would belong among the truly great records of any decade. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why; so many of its songs seem borne of destiny, as if they answered a calling more than they were willed into existence by their author. As if, to get back to Nick’s notes, somebody else took over and did it.

And then there is Gold. Temptation (eventually and rightly avoided, I expect) was to run a one-word review of the album: “Pyrite.” Though such brevity would be disrespectful of the effort that obviously went into the record, its precision strikes at the heart of the matter: Adams is fooling himself. His previous releases (not to mention scores of unreleased tracks) reveal an artist with a genuine gift for melody and songcraft, and for capturing the elusive emotional impact at the center of the musical experience. Gold doesn’t sound like that artist; it sounds like the guy who does terrible impersonations of his stuff.

What Lowe doesn’t reveal is how to summon the inner voice who “takes over and does it.” There may be no answer; yet clearly, as Lowe’s own experience attests, it’s possible to return to that place, to that clarity of expression. And it’s worth striving for; indeed, it’s what I’ve been striving to attain even as I’ve written these words.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain (Album Review)
    Ever-bearded Tennessean troubadour Matt Woods’ second full length studio record, With Love From Brushy Mountain, is slated for a May 13, 2014 release.  This comes as a follow up to his first full length, The Matt Woods Manifesto, a trying task in and of itself.  Woods is hands down one of the hardest working singer/songwriters I’ve ever come across.  He eats […]
  • Rod Kennedy (1930-2014) and the Kerrville Folk Festival - Interview & Remembrance
    Rod Kennedy’s legacy is incalculable for those who truly love music, he departed this earthly plane on Monday 14th April 2014. R.I.P. The following “warts and all” late May 1986 interview with Mr. Kennedy, the founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival, was the lead feature in the debut issue of the Kerrville Kronikle fanzine sometime around 1988. No serendipity […]
  • Simone Felice - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow - 4/11/2014)
    With his second solo album safely under his belt Simone Felice is rapidly conforming his status as one of the finest purveyors of Americana around these days. Fortunately (for us) he remains somewhat under the mass radar allowing audiences to see him in intimate settings such as the hallowed King Tuts, a perfect space to see and hear his shamanistic offering […]
  • First Seldom Scene Album in Seven Years: Exclusive Look
    Seldom Scene issues its first Smithsonian Folkways album next week with guests including Emmylou Harris. Mike Auldridge passed away in 2012, but the group includes founding member Ben Eldridge as well as Lou Reid, Dudley Connell, Ronnie Simpkins, and Fred Travers. Here is a look at "My Better Years" the Hazel Dickens' tune from the album,  […]
  • MerleFest - Wilkesboro, North Carolina - April 24-27 2014
    While there are quite a few notable festivals that begin earlier than late April, many of us kick off the festival season by trekking to not your normal community college, the Wilkes Community College in the rolling hills of north central North Carolina where MerleFest has been held every year since 1988. Named in honor of Merle Watson who lived nearby, 2014 […]
  • Americana Boogie new releases for the week of April 15th... Rodney Crowell, Bobby Bare Jr, Moot Davis, Secret Sisters, Ray Bonneville and more
    BOBBY BARE JR. Undefeated (Bloodshot) Bobby Bare, Jr. could've phoned in a career. He could've exploited the fact that he s the son of Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare, instead, he blazed a path of unique songwriting… […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter