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Feature Thu Aug 09 2007

Review: Mule Magazine Issue 4

Mule Magazine is a bi-annual arts and culture publication that began in 2002 as a student project at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Those former students are now spread across the country, and currently the magazine is based in Chicago. Issue 4 is their most recent effort.

Articles cover a range of topics, from art and fashion to music and film, and Issue 4 is dense with content. It includes a massive line-up of features, interviews, original art and short-form reviews, all packed into a meaty 62 pages. Little space is wasted, and the magazine conveys the kind of visual overload of design publications like IdN.

The content also reflects the staff's split origins between Tennessee and Chicago. Issue 4 contains interviews with Chicago-based musician Philip Cohran and band Pit er Pat, alongside a profile of Knoxville, Tenn., band The Tenderhooks. Similarly, a write-up of the Chicago artist group The Soft Shop is balanced by a spread featuring the work of Knoxville printmaker Bryan Baker. This dueling Midwestern-Southern sensibility works just fine, although it is a bit jarring when, even in the advertising, the Old Town School of Folk Music shares space with a Nashville record store.

Writer and co-editor Jennifer Brandel is one of the talents behind Mule Magazine, and both her profile of musician Dave Fischoff and interview with DEPART-ment founder Marshall Preheim are standouts in Issue 4. Both pieces are thoughtful, insightful and tightly written. On the whole, the publication is engaging, well-written and carefully edited, but there are a couple uneven spots. The review section suffers from a lack of organization, with album reviews, artist profiles, an interview with Iraqi filmmaker Usama Alshaibi and even a write-up about a Chicago-based tea company all jumbled together. And, unfortunately, the fashion section feels tacked on. The pieces by Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, Kristen Kennedy and Aay Preston-Myint are innovative and visually striking, but the feature gets lost, sandwiched between the ads at the end of the issue.

Despite the minor unevenness, Issue 4 of Mule Magazine is an impressive, ambitious effort and well worth seeking out. Contributions to the magazine are all volunteer-based, and it is independently produced, just like a certain Chicago-based web publication…Mule Magazine may be found at Reckless Records and Quimby's, and Issue 5 is expected to hit newsstands this fall. And, visit Mule Magazine online at

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