George’s Musical Ramblin’s
Todd Snider Live: The Story Teller by Todd SniderAimless Records, 2011
I’ve been waiting on Todd Snider to put out a new album so I could, not only review it, but also have a
chance to talk about a singer-songwriter who I think stands almost alone among his contemporaries as awriter of real life, deep feeling songs. Snider broke onto the popular music scene in 1994 , with a song
called “Talking Seattle Grunge Blues”
about a band that wouldn’t play, who became the biggest thing in
pop music, and went on MTV un-
Plugged and “refused to play acoustic versions of the songs that they’drefused to play electrically, then they smashed their s**t” It was a
comically cynical song about a rock
industry that was in process of falling about, and when the band gets displaced by a “band who wasn’teven together,” Snider tells them to pack the van, “We’re goin’ back to Athens”
.I went out and bought that album on the strength of that song and was never disappointed. Not onlydid the guy have an amazing sense of humor, but the ability to stop on a dime and write with the socialconsciousness of a Bob Dylan. His ability to laugh at himself and others, combined with his seriously bigheart, reminds me more of John Prine than anyone else.Although this live album is not his greatest work, it is a good
jumping off place for anyone who’sunfamiliar with Sniders work (he’s released an amazing 8 studio albums, three live albums
greatest hits) because it contains some of his best songs, from the confessional “Greenb
and the anti-
bullying “Is This Thing Working” to “45 Miles” which contains one of my favorite Snider
“I should of known
right away that something was wrong,
when I started thinkin’ things were
alright/Things are not alright
o his masterpiece “The Ballad of the Kingsmen” (which I’ll say moreabout later) , the sing along anthem “Conservative Christian,
. . .
Straight White American Males” a
the feel good closer of “Good Fortune”.
It also contains several of his famous 18 minute raps that areoften as funny and insightful as his songs.
Many of Snider’s albums have been hit and miss, but all contain at
least one or two gems and some of them are downright sensational.
“Happy to Be Here”, his first album for John Prine’s Oh Boy label wasexcellent, and “East Nashville Skyline” in 2004 and “The Excitement Plan” in 2008 feature some of the
best songwriting of the 21
century. Snider is a satirist, like Twain, like Dylan. He pokes and probes atthe outer façade that we put around our lives, until he finds the real person, sometimes pretty, oftennot. On
“Happy to Be Here”
it became apparent that Todd had both a love affair and a problem with
drugs and alcohol. “A Long Year” is one of the
most honest AA songs ever, with Todd leaving a meetingafter a year of sobriety and driving to a bar where he orders a shot. Anyone who has ever battledaddiction knows how real this song is.
gloss over his faults,
and he’s more than willing to