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No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1

No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1

5.0 1
The publishers of the alternative country magazine No Depression offer a thumbnail overview of the fertile subgenre on this compilation. The disc begins by tipping its proverbial hat to two forefathers, with Johnny Cash rendering a bristling version of Willie Nelson's "Time of the Preacher," backed by a host of Seattle grunge


The publishers of the alternative country magazine No Depression offer a thumbnail overview of the fertile subgenre on this compilation. The disc begins by tipping its proverbial hat to two forefathers, with Johnny Cash rendering a bristling version of Willie Nelson's "Time of the Preacher," backed by a host of Seattle grunge rockers, and ends with the Carter Family's "No Depression," the zine's namesake song. In between are many individual spins on the traditional country that lies at the roots of the sound, such as Allison Moorer's dark, foreboding ballad "Is Heaven Good Enough for You"; the late Doug Sahm's western swing–infused "Cowboy Peyton Place"; and Buddy Miller's stark, sarcastic indictment of a faithless significant other, "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger." Kasey Chambers reminds us why hers remains the most penetrating voice of her generation on the pulsating country rocker "Dam" (previously available only on an Australian EP). And while he may have moved on to a more rock-centric sound of late, Ryan Adams turns up with his old band Whiskeytown on "Faithless Street," a template for the angst-ridden, languorous style of country common to the early alternative bands. At the other end of the scale is Hayseed, who stay firmly rooted in rustic tradition on the old-time hymn "Farther Along," featuring Emmylou Harris's keening harmonies. As a sampler, this disc leaves one wanting more -- and that's a good thing. Maybe that's why they called it Vol. 1.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Ronnie D. Lankford
The release of No Depression: What It Sounds Like (Vol. 1) has an air of the Smithsonian Institute about it, suggesting that the 14-year-old genre can now be safely displayed for popular consumption. Luckily, however, the songs never sound like museum pieces. With the help of No Depression's -- the periodical -- editors Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, Dualtone has gathered 13 tracks to help explain the most perplexing of musical questions: just what the heck does no depression sound like? The collection kicks off with bad boy Johnny Cash merging his country roots with Seattle grunge on Willie Nelson's "The Time of the Preacher." Another alternative country icon, Emmylou Harris, lends vocal support to Hayseed's rustic take of "Farther Along," creating a vocal mix as rough and ready as anything the Carter Family ever put on a breakable 78 rpm record. In-between, relative newcomers like Allison Moorer and Kevin Gordon/Lucinda Williams fashion a contemporary style with singer/songwriter roots, while Whiskeytown and Robbie Fulks/Kelly Willis sound like they've stepped out of a honky tonk circa 1951. Such disparate strands of rock, old-time, and contemporary folk have always made no depression something like the potpourri of genres, custom-made for everything that doesn't fit anywhere else. In this fashion, the music's audience seems to be made up of classic rock fans stuck in the early '70s and country fans who lean toward Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings. No Depression: What It Sounds Like is a solid collection for the initiate or longtime fan, and succeeds because it doesn't try to cram this elusive genre into a tidy category.

Product Details

Release Date:
Dualtone Music Group


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Johnny Cash   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Kelly Willis   Vocals
Sean Kinney   Drums
Marty Muse   Steel Guitar
Krist Novoselic   Bass
Kim Thayil   Electric Guitar
Brad Fordham   Bass Guitar
Lisa Pankratz   Drums
Robbie Fulks   Acoustic Guitar,Vocal Ad-Libs
Robbie Gjersoe   Electric Guitar

Technical Credits

Johnny Cash   Producer
Willie Nelson   Composer
Mickey Newbury   Composer
Elvis Presley   Composer
Doug Sahm   Composer
Chris Stamey   Producer
Julie Miller   Composer
Steve Albini   Engineer
A.P. Carter   Composer
Alejandro Escovedo   Composer
Kenny Greenberg   Producer
Randall Hage Jamail   Producer
Colin Linden   Composer
Buddy Miller   Composer
Bruce Robison   Engineer
Joel Trueblood   Composer
Whiskeytown   Producer
John Dunleavy   Engineer
Robbie Fulks   Composer
Neko Case   Composer
John Ramberg   Composer
Joe Hayden   Engineer
Matthew Ryan   Composer
Scott Betts   Composer
Kevin Gordon   Composer
Brian Connelly   Composer
Phil Wandscher   Composer
Ryan Adams   Composer
Hayseed   Arranger
Allison Moorer   Composer
Caitlin Cary   Composer
Grant Alden   Executive Producer
Traditional   Composer
Peter Blackstock   Executive Producer
Doyle Lee Primm   Composer
Kyla Fairchild   Executive Producer

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No Depression: What It Sounds Like, Vol. 1 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After nine years of writing about music, the editors of “No Depression” have cut out the wordy indirections with this thirteen track essay on alternative country music. No doubt they’ve been pieced together compilations like this for friends, but now those outside the immediate circle now get to share in their obsession. This thirteen track collection has the breadth needed to stake out a genre as hazy as “No Depression.” There are founders (The Carter Family) and legends (Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Emmylou Harris), alt.country darlings (Whiskeytown, Robbie Fulks, Alejandro Escovedo, Lucinda Williams) and artists from the various spokes of the alt.country umbrella. And as if that weren’t enough, there are frictional sparks thrown off by several surprising collaborations. ¶ It’s fitting that the collection opens with one of mainstream country music’s biggest stars and most ornery individualists, Johnny Cash. The combination of Cash’s riveting baritone, Willie Nelson’s song of a murderous preacher, and Seattle’s finest grunge-rock musicians (Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novaselic, and Alice in Chains’ dummer Sean Kinney) is just the sort of alchemy that frees country music’s essence from Nashville’s commercial constrictions. The battle between John Carter Cash’s acoustic 12-string and Thayil’s storming electric provides truly magnificent accompaniment to Nelson’s tale of temptation. ¶ Alison Moorer’s “Is Heaven Good Enough For You” provides a compelling segue, tagging off on the preacher’s theme to introduce a moving eulogy for Moorer’s mother. It’s an incredibly confident and personal turn for a debut album (this is drawn from Moorer’s 1998 “Alabama Song”), and features superbly wrought harmony singing. It’s a perfect example of how major labels (MCA in this case) can innovate on the edges of their commercial inclinations. Buddy Miller’s “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger,” provides another side to that coin, having been turned into a hit single by Lee Ann Womack. The latter couldn’t muster the deep soul of this original, but showed off the sheer quality of Miller’s songwriting. ¶ Whiskeytown’s “Faithless Street” finds poster boy Ryan Adams summing up much of the alt.country experience with Gram Parsons’ styled anguish, and the declaration, “So I started this damn country band / ‘Cause punk rock was too hard to sing.” The combination of twanging guitars, bending steel and Caitlin Cary’s old-timey fiddle lines show off several of the flavors included in the No Depression rubric. ¶ Segueing once again, Adams wasn’t the only artist who’d gravitated from punk rock to country. Alejandro Escovedo, having started out in The Nuns and crossing genres with Rank and File, settled in by founding the Austin-based True Believers, and subsequently recording a series of solo albums. Escovedo’s “Five Hearts Breaking” shows how well he writes with the troubadour’s touch and human detail of Springsteen and Zevon. ¶ Neko Case’s “Thrice All American” is a moving waltz-time ode to her hometown of Tacoma, WA. The near-jewel of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle won the railhead and the battle was over) has always struggled for identity in the shadow of the nearby Emerald City, and with dwindling input for its pulp-mill, the downtown has never seen the resurgence city planners continually hope for. Tacoma’s residents struggle similarly, and Case, having moved to California, sings with a dollop of regret. ¶ Robbie Fulks’ “Parallel Bars” shows off the sort of lyrical dexterity that (once-upon-a-time) made Roger Miller a star. Unfortunately, Nashville was no longer in the mood