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Alternative country ‘bookazine’ tries again

No Depression magazine has new format, is a biannual and is complemented by Web site.

The May/June 2008 issue, the final such issue, of No Depression magazine.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Started with a meager print run more than a decade ago, alternative country magazine No Depression helped launch the careers of Ryan Adams and Wilco. As it picked up subscribers and advertising, it also exposed fans to country stalwarts whose radio airplay dwindled while the genre went pop.

But the declining fortunes of both the magazine and music industries made the bimonthly publication too difficult to sustain, and its editors shut it down after its May/June issue this year.

Now, No Depression is back. And while the format has changed, the focus remains on alternative country — “whatever that is,” as its editors said. It will come out twice a year as a “bookazine” with no advertising that’s complemented by a Web site.

“We had a pretty large outpouring of sentiment and support,” said coeditor Peter Blackstock. “That’s partly why we started looking at other ways we might be able to continue. There’s still a community there — we weren’t losing readership.”

Founded in 1995 by three friends in Seattle, the name No Depression came from a Carter Family song covered in 1990 by the seminal alt-county band Uncle Tupelo, whose descendants Son Volt and Wilco were profiled in its first few issues.

The Ryan Adams-fronted Whiskeytown was on an early cover, and violinist Caitlin Cary — described in one article as “the serene presence next to Adams’ rambunctious antics” — said she only realized years later the importance of the magazine’s story.

“They gave real time — real paragraphs and pages — real insight into music that most other music magazines couldn’t or wouldn’t touch,” she wrote in an e-mail.

When Blackstock and partners Grant Alden and Kyla Fairchild shut down the magazine this past summer, No Depression had about 30,000 subscribers. That was well above the 2,000 copies printed for the first issue, but the advertising that paid the bills — especially from the music industry that provided much of its magazine’s support — had dried up.

As one of the magazine’s reporters wrote to Blackstock: “It’s one failing industry covering another failing industry. What could go wrong?”

The Alt/Country magazine helped launch the careers of Ryan Adams and Wilco.

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