Live: The Storyteller
Todd Snider may well be the greatest musical storyteller of his generation. He is often compared to John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker, but I think the comparisons can extend to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Spalding Gray, and Garrison Keillor. I enjoyed his songs long before I first heard a live recording (Near Truths and Hotel Rooms), but it is in the live performance that his talent truly shines through. The new 2-CD set Live: The Storyteller reinforces this fact in abundance.
Snider’s performance is solid throughout the two discs, effortlessly transitioning from a heartbreaking tale of depression and a bridge (“Sunshine”), to a laugh-out-loud description of the world he inhabited a few short years ago while living as a struggling musician in not the best neighborhood in Memphis (“Sideshow Blues”). From the realization of a bullied kid that he might be able to turn the tables on his bully in “Is This Thing Working/Is This Thing On,” to the tale of a no-hitter pitched while on LSD in “America’s Favorite Pastime,” the stories continue to flow. The double album is filled with this type of emotional back and forth, told in tales sometimes autobiographical and sometimes narrative, but always interesting. Aided by Great American Taxi on some tracks, Snider manages by himself with his acoustic guitar just as well many times. Snider does a very good job of not repeating himself, with only a couple songs appearing here that were on the previous live outing. I still wish for a live version of “All Right Guy,” but maybe next time.
As with Near Truths, while the songs themselves are performed with verve and soul, it is often the spoken introductions and in-song digressions that grab the listener even more. Getting to know the background to a song is a little like having a writer’s or director’s commentary on a feature film. Herein we learn things like how he went from being a rhythm guitarist to being lead singer of a country cover band by being in the right place at the right time, and of meeting NASCAR superstar Bill Elliot, sort of, and of how a handful of mushrooms may have robbed the NFL of his athletic prowess but resulted in the “peace-lovin’, pot-smokin’, porn-watchin’, lazy-ass hippie that stands before you this afternoon.” You laugh along with the crowd, and shake your head in amusement and amazement that more people have not heard this remarkable storyteller spin his tales. If you’ve never heard Todd Snider before, pick up a copy and enjoy the ride. If you are already a fan, pick up a copy and share it with a friend.
Todd Snider: www.toddsnider.net