No Depression No More!

November 27, 2005

I’m a nerd. I used to read a lot of music magazines when I was younger and had more money, but these days, I don’t have the time or the money to buy and read many of the darn things anymore. I hear about a lot of great magazines that I should read, but don’t often get around to picking them up, and even less often do I get around to reading the ones I do pick up. One magazine that I’ve been told time and time again that I should pick up, and have often been tempted to pick up, is NO Depression. It’s a magazine that focuses on “The Past, Present, and Future of American Music.” That really means nothing, but when you read the magazine, it makes a little more sense. It focuses on music that’s good, instead of major label crap that they get paid to force down people’s throats. It’s very much got a roots/folk/americana focus, so musically, it’s right up my alley.

Well, I finally got to find out how great the magazine was about a year ago when a dear friend was kind enough to sign me up for a subscription. It was a wonderful gift as I finally found out what I’d been missing for so long. As the magazines arrived, I would sit down and flip through them, looking for a couple of articles and reviews that I had to read, knowing that I didn’t really have time to go through the whole issue in depth. What I found was that the whole darn thing was good, and I ended up spending a lot more time than I really had reading almost everything in each issue. There were a lot of late nights where I probably should have been sleeping, but ended up reading No Depression instead. There were a lot of great articles and reviews and photos, so it was worth staying up late to go over each magazine.

A little while ago, I started getting notices that my time was about up and that I had to renew my subscription. Well, I’m broke as can be, and life is only getting busier, so I haven’t committed to renewing just yet. I was still considering it though. That is, until I read this month’s magazine.

I’ve been very impressed with the amount of great Canadian music that’s been presented in the magazine. There have been articles and reviews of some of my favourite Canadian musicians in the magazine in the past (Jim Bryson!), and the latest issue is no different, there’s a really great article on Blue Rodeo on there (even if it does focus heavily on why they’re not stars in the U.S., which seems a little odd.) I was also pleased to see that there is a review of Corb Lund’s new record, “Hair in my Eyes Like a Highland Steer.” Being a bit of a Lund fan and curious to see what an American magazine would think of Lund’s very Albertacentric writing, I dove right into the review. Almost immediately, it stopped me right in my tracks.

I’ll provide a copy of the review here:

Like ice fishing and snow mobile racing, Corb Lund is huge in Canada (if not so much in Texas). The former frontman for Edmonton punk-rock footnotes the Smalls consistently sells out 1,000-seat venues in the Great White North. Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer leaves no doubt that the country convert bleeds maple syrup and Molson Canadian; the disc’s thirteen rollicking dusters are littered with references to Calgary cowgirls and British Columbia buckaroos.

Musically, The Corb Lund Band is at least partially rooted in American soil. The cowbell-propelled title track hews dangeroulsy close to Nashville-brand new country, and the saloon-boogie shuffler “Always Keep An Edge On Your Knife” sounds like an artifact from the California gold rush.

Lund’s weakness is that too many of his songs play out like novelty tunes. “Hurtin’ Albertan” is a CB radio tribute that won’t make anyone forget about C.W. McCall’s immortal “Convoy”, and “The Truck Got Stuck” could easily be a reject from Jason Ringenberg’s A Day At The Farm With Farmer Jason children’s disc. Everyone suspects Canadians are kind of simple, but Lund doesn’t have to prove it with sing-song rhymes like “It was truck after truck/We all got stuck.”

From No Depression #60 – November/December 2005
written by Mike Usinger

Wow. Now I can take a joke, and can forgive more than my share of bad writing (not everyone can be a perfect writer such as I, after all…), but this pile of literary poo got to me. I did what I felt I had to do, and wrote an email to No Depression expressing my disappointment. It is as follows:

It’s a good thing my subscription is up, because I’d likely want to cancel it after reading the DUMB comments that Mike Usinger made in his sadly misinformed and very insulting review of Corb Lund’s new album. There’s a reason why there is some animosity between Canada and the US, and it’s almost entirely because of ignorance and stereotypes like those spewed forth by Mr. Usinger. “Everyone suspects Canadians are kind of simple, but Lund doesn’t have to prove it…” Wow. I’m not surprised that there’s someone in the US small-minded enough to write such drivel, but I’m really shocked at No Depression for publishing it. What a total lack of respect for your subscribers north of the border.

I should mention that Usinger’s rambling review, while it contains plenty of fairly typical, stupid stereotypes, also contains plenty of factual errors. First, Lund was hardly the “frontman” for The Smalls. As anyone who had done their homework should know, Corby Lund (as he was known) was the bass player, while Mike Caldwell did the singing, thank you (a quick check on allmusic.com, an American site, will show you that) (further, one has to wonder why, if The Smalls are mere “footnotes,” Usinger would bother to mention them at all). Also, while Lund is surely gaining in popularity, he is far from able to sell out 1,000 seat venues in much of “The Great White North.” Sure, in his home of Alberta he may be able to pull that off, but in much of the country he’s playing much, much smaller venues. Most importantly, no matter how much he appears to be gaining steam, he has a long, long way to go before he is as popular as ice fishing or snowmobile (one word, Mr. Usinger) racing.

We Canadians may be simple, but at least we are able to write well informed reviews without insulting an entire nation of people.

Farewell No Depression, and thanks for not making things “too” friendly between the US and Canada; it just means that there will be more maple syrup and Molson products for us, thanks.

Jeff Robson
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Great White North

And those are just a few of the comments that one could make about this awful review.


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