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Todd Snider
Live - Near Truths and Hotel Rooms

Review By Steven Stone
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Todd Snider Live - Near Truths and Hotel Rooms

CD Number: Oh Boy Records OBR-024 

 

  I often wonder what happened to Lenny Bruce after he died. Now I know. He's been reincarnated as a wickedly funny singer-songwriter named Todd Snider. Though not everything Todd Snider performs is funny; actually a lot of it is achingly sad. He often writes songs about the folks who wind up stuck in the eddies and stagnant whirlpools of the modern world's streaming bustle. Other songs celebrate the irrational in ways that can't help but make you smile.

Given the nature of Snider's music, it's appropriate him to be on John Prine's Oh Boy label. Snider sensibilities parallel Prine's affinity with the absurdities of modern life, but with his own unique spin on reality. Armed with only his voice, a Gibson J-200, and a harmonica, Snider delivers a roomful of music. Besides great songs, this live album lets you experience Todd Snider's superb comic timing. This guy knows how to tell a story perfectly, with maximum impact. For those adverse to certain, actually most, four letter words, Snider's between song banter may be a tad too spicy. But for those who appreciate a bit of colorful speech, Snider knows how to use words for maximum effect.

Todd Snider has four previously released albums, all of which sport a full band and primarily electric orchestration. Live reveals that even stripped of studio niceties, songs such as "I Can't Complain," "Easy Money," and "I Spoke as a Child" remain powerful. Although he mocks his own guitar playing abilities, Snider is a solid fingerpicker who is more than able to supply solid backup for his rustic vocalizations. As with anyone who mounts a stage solo with only a guitar and harmonica, parallels with early Bob Dylan performances immediately come to mind. Certainly Dylan is the archetype for this kind of performance style, but Snider makes the genre very much his own.

Sonically, Live is real, but not especially pretty. The piezo quack of Snider's Gibson could never be confused with the sound of a well-mic'ed instrument in the studio. But despite the direct input guitar, the album captures the feeling of a live concert extremely well, complete with intro music and spontaneous crowd interactions.

Todd Snider deserves a larger audience, not just because he needs to eat, but also because he has something of value to offer. Baby boomers have an ample supply of traveling troubadours describing their sorry condition. Snider brings Woody Guthriesque acoustic sensibilities and Lenny Bruce's wit to the X generation. They can certainly use more of both.

 

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