Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pop Rocks #3: No Depression's Triumphant Return Online; Magfest in Live Oak; NYT: "Jimmy" Hendrix?

Several months ago in this space, I lamented the sad end of the print edition of No Depression, a magazine -- oriented toward alternative country, roots rock and Americana -- that was a repository of some of the finest music journalism being published in the U.S.

By that, I mean that it was dominated by serious, insightful, lively writing about a fairly wide range of musicians, guided by an editorial philosophy that seemed to value musical values, and real artists, who played their own instruments and sang their own songs, above instantly disposable teenypop and hip-hop.

As opposed to what's on offer in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and too many other magazines, as well as daily and weekly newspapers, music coverage in No Depression wasn't built around, or prioritized by, artists' celebrity and personal lives.

At the time of ND's cessation, the mag's head honchos and co-founders Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock alluded to the mag's reincarnation as a full-service online version. But they didn't publicly make a commitment to when it would launch, or how it would look.

This week, about five months after the final (May-June) issue hit the newsstands, is a reality.

I'd still prefer a print mag - ink-on-paper runs in my blood, to mix a metaphor.

But I'll be happy to regularly visit, and perhaps one day contribute to, the new site.

The edition available now offers a feature on the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, which will attract 500,000 visitors to Golden Gate Park this weekend and - amazingly - is a free-admission event.

The lineup includes "Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Iris DeMent, Ralph Stanley, Steve Earle, Iron & Wine, and over 60 others spread out across five stages." As a political commentator on CNN said about his wish to see Thursday night's VP debate, I'd crawl naked through broken glass (or was that across a barbed-wire fence) to see a lineup like that in the Tampa Bay area.

Here's something that the print No Depression and its old web site was not equipped to handle - live, next-day reviews of the San Francisco fest, beginning with coverage of last night's events.

Adam Machado has this to say about the Krauss/Plant set: "Krauss delivered her usual pristine and sometimes haunting vocals. Her a cappella singing on the O Brother number "Down To The River to Pray", backed by three-part harmony from Plant, Miller, and Duncan, underlined why she's been at the forefront of bluegrass music for two decades now. As her voice carried out over the thousands – many of whom were drawn in by Plant's rock-star luster – it became clearer how the union of these two somewhat incongruous performers in many ways epitomizes the whole Hardly Strictly phenomenon."

There's lots more to like about cyberspace ND, including loads more reviews of concerts (Glen Campbell, Austin City Limits Music Festival) and "record" reviews (Old Crow Medicine Show, Charlie Louvin, the Iguanas, Patty Loveless), book reviews, columns by writers such as Don McLeese (on Lucinda Williams' forthcoming Little Honey album) and additional reviews contributed by readers.

I was intrigued by mention of a No Depression festival next July in Seattle. Maybe, if the stars align perfectly, I'll make it out there.

There are glitches here and there, but looks like it will become as valuable a musical resource as its print predecessor.

Speaking of Americana festivals, one of Florida's biggest and best takes place next month: Magfest, Oct. 23-26 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, this year will feature the amazing Avett Brothers, Sam Bush, Donna the Buffalo, the Duhks, the Lee Boys, Blueground Undergrass, David Gans, and the trio of Bill Kreutzmann, Oteil Burbridge & Scott Murawski. For more information and to order tickets, click here.

Talk about rock 'n' roll getting no respect: In the travel section of last Sunday's New York Times, a writer referred to legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix as "Jimmy."

Don't the Times' editors know the difference? Yes, probably so. Better question is, where was the editor when this slip took place? Here's the link to the piece, on Brighton England. You'll notice that Hendrix's name has been corrected online.

Of course, he once called himself Jimmy, when he formed Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in 1966. His birth name: Johnny Allen Hendrix. This Nov. 27, he would have turned 66.

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