Order us a double whiskey and put a sad country song on the jukebox. We just learned that music magazine No Depression is about to stop publishing. Its May-June issue will be its last after a 13-year run.
Here at Utne Reader, we’ve long been fans of No Depression, nominating it five times for arts coverage in the Utne Independent Press Awards (including last year) and passing around each issue to browse its smart, clear-eyed coverage of American roots music. We admired No Depression’s trend-bucking moves, like putting 79-year-old Porter Wagoner on the cover, its general avoidance of music-mag clichés, and its ability to take us deep into the back corners of this country’s rich trove of homegrown music. In a world full of guys wearing Western-style shirts, they helped sort out the real deal from the posers.
No doubt, No Depression had a challenging mission in getting its hands around an amorphous category of music, most often called Americana, alt country, or No Depression, that at times encompasses folk, country, blues, soul, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, bluegrass, and various subsets of rock. But it navigated this broad landscape with pluck and verve, attracting a loyal readership that according to its editors hasn’t dropped significantly. What did drop was the amount of record label advertising, a result of “the precipitous fall of the music industry,” they write in their farewell notice.
No Depression was an earthy antidote to the glossy, glib, trend-obsessed coverage we often saw in the mainstream music press, like drinking a quenching brew instead of a gimmicky stunt martini. Looks like we’re going to go thirsty more often.