The alt-country catchphrase No Depression refers to one of four things:

  1. A 1930s Carter Family song "No Depression In Heaven"
  2. The 1990 Uncle Tupelo album No Depression
  3. A discussion board on America Online called "No Depression–Alternative Country"
  4. A bi-monthly print magazine devoted to the alt-country music and entertainment genre
I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there

No Depression (In Heaven) was a traditional Appalachian song (and thus lyrics are in the public domain) set to music by A. P. Carter in 1936 and recorded by the Carter Family for Decca Records on June 8, 1936 and released as Decca single DE 5242 shortly thereafter. The song was later re-recorded by Uncle Tupelo in 1990, serving as the title track for their debut album which helped in large part to give birth to the alt.country movement.

For fear the hearts of men are failing
For these are latter days we know
The great depression now is spreading
God's word declared it would be so

The song was originally written about the effects of the Great Depression on the hearts and minds of Americans (witness the direct reference to "the great depression" in the third line of the first verse), but it takes on an entirely different meaning in modern times, describing the effects of depression on the psyche. It is truly a timeless piece of music, still as amazing today as it was in 1936.

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there

My grandfather had a big stack of records that dated back to the 1920s and the phonograph upon which to play them. When I was little, I used to leaf through the records, seeing names like Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Louis Armstrong, and The Carter Family, and wondered what kind of music was on them. He would rarely get out his phonograph because the mere thought of it reminded him of his deceased wife; they had danced together for fifty years to songs coming out of the phonograph.

In that bright land, there'll be no hunger
No orphan children cryin' for bread
No weeping widows, toil or struggle
No shrouds, no coffins, and no death

One day, when I was at his house looking through his records, though, he decided to share the music with me. We got out an old record player of his, dusted it off, and we moved through some of the songs he had. And that day, I fell in love with folk and bluegrass. I heard Blue Moon of Kentucky and Muleskinner Blues and My Clinch Mountain Home and I wanted the music to go on forever.

But the voice of Sara Carter did something else for me; it touched me in a way that the others did not. We went through every single record he had by the Carter Family that afternoon, and eventually we came upon DE 5242, a single which had There's No One Like Mother To Me on one side and this song on the other.

And when I heard this song for the first time, I got goosebumps all over my body.

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there

We spent most of the day listening to his stack of records, but this is one of the few that has stuck with me for all these years. It spurned in me a huge interest in bluegrass, folk, and traditional country music, and hearing Sara Carter's voice sing the third verse still gives me a chill that no amount of overprocessed modern pop music can give me.

It is simply magic. There is no other word for it.

This dark hour of midnight nearing
And tribulation time will come
The storms will hurl in midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom.

There is truly something special about this song, both in its original version and the 1990 Uncle Tupelo remake of it. Both songs just strike a deep chord, not only with me, but with a lot of other people.

I saw Uncle Tupelo performing once, as I grew up fairly close to their home area in Illinois. When they played this song, I sang along with every word of it, much to the delight of one of the band members, who I later found out was Jay Farrar. I still remember that cold evening in 1992, and it was almost as if I could hear the voice of Sara Carter singing in my ear.

I'm going where there's no depression
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there.

My grandfather passed away several years go. I listened to No Depression after his funeral and realized he was in a better place. His children auctioned off what remained of his life's possessions. I couldn't come up with enough money to buy the records.

I hope that he's dancing with my grandmother somewhere to an old phonograph record with a smile in his face and a bit of youth in his step.

No depression, indeed.


There are a few minor lyrical changes in the Uncle Tupelo remake of the song. The most significant change is the removal of the third verse, and the second line of the chorus is changed to "To a better land that's free from care."

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