No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1
First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2004, Volume 11, #4
Written by John Metzger
Whether it's called alt-country, insurgent country, or "no depression," the movement has been around long enough that it needs no further definition, and anyone who might be interested even remotely in the genre already has a pretty good idea as to what it is. Nevertheless, nine years into its existence, No Depression magazine has taken the matter upon itself and crafted No Depression: What It Sounds Like [Vol. 1], a 13-track suite of twang-y tunes for disappointed country fans and disillusioned punk rockers. While the album does fulfill the obligations of its title, one has to wonder why such alt-country progenitors as The Byrds, Gram Parsons, Son Volt, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and The Jayhawks were excluded. Given that these bands are the definition of alt-country, it seems like an extraordinarily glaring oversight.
Despite this shortcoming, No Depression: What It Sounds Like [Vol. 1] still succeeds in offering a rather remarkable selection of songs that fold together to form the perfect mix tape for roots-rock junkies. Granted, there are no surprises here, and all of this music is available elsewhere. But that isnít the point. The most interesting thing about the "no depression" movement is that its name is something of a misnomer. In fact, thereís very little that is alternative about it, and most of its artists would fit quite well within the confines of the Nashville scene, at least when the city isnít being co-opted by pop-star wannabes. Indeed, Robbie Fulksí duet with Kelly Willis on Parallel Bars, Kasey Chambersí cover of Matthew Ryanís Dam, and Neko Caseís powerful Thrice All American are all as country as songs come. The difference, then, with traditional Nashville fare is the air of experimentation that occasionally surfaces within the genre, typified on No Depression: What It Sounds Like [Vol. 1] by the unusual collaboration between Johnny Cash and a trio of grunge artists ó Soundgardenís Kim Thayil, Nirvanaís Krist Novoselic, and Alice in Chainsí Sean Kinney ó on a cover of Willie Nelsonís The Time of the Preacher. Itís a juxtaposition of styles that shouldnít work but somehow does, and it illustrates that the gap between edgy rock and mellow country truly isnít all that wide. Ĺ
No Depression: What It Sound Like [Vol. 1] is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box