IF ANY POPULAR genre is ready for a punk-style insurrection, it's country music. It's been happening piecemeal for a while now. But there are a couple reasons why the mainstream press hasn't clicked with the new Americana: The artists have no fashion sense, no gimmicks, and are generally more expressive on their records than on-the-record. Finally, the sub-genre has a booster that meets the music on its own terms: Born out a fervent message board on America Online, No Depression (named for a Carter Family song and an Uncle Tupelo album) is a zine that surveys the Nashville non-grata with a bleeding heart and an open mind. The record review section is an invaluable road map for stragglers. For instance, the 34-page premier issue includes essential artists such as Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Marlee MacLeod, Blue Mountain and Jim Lauderdale, but also roams beyond the margins to discuss Paul K. and the Weathermen, Geraldine Fibbers, and even Joan Osborne.
Reviews are fairly balanced under the circumstances, and usually informed with a sense of an artist's whole career, not just the latest offering. Penetrating interviews remain a problem, however, with a broad but not deep cover story on Son Volt and the St. Louis scene. Better is the section of extended features, which covers The Bottle Rockets and Dead Reckoning, a new group featuring Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch. Short regional reports give the scoop on Chicago-based Mekonsmutants The Waco Brothers, among others, and there's a light but smart back-page feature on the 10 best versions of "Lineman for the County." The fact that Glen Campbell takes second, O.C. Smith third, Ray Charles seventh, and Urge Overkilleighth shows that No Depression's love of country isn't blind. Now, can they get us an interview with ex-Jayhawk Mark Olson? Available in most local independent record stores. (Note Oppression Industries, 1321 N. 44th St., Seattle, WA, 98103; 206-547-5952; NoDepress@aol.com) (Jim Meyer)