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Todd Snider
The Excitement Plan

Review By Steven Stone
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  Todd Snider may be the ultimate poster boy for the slacker generation. He has all the charisma and forward momentum of a plaid flannel shirt right before it's turned into a dust rag. But despite his lack of "star power" he continues to create wickedly witty music. The Excitement Plan has all the making of another Todd Snider masterpiece.

Snider's choice of songs' subject matter makes him special. Few other songwriters write about baseball pitchers playing on LSD, "America's Favorite Pastime," the Iraq war from a soldier's point of view "Bring ‘Em Home," future possible infidelity, "Don' Tempt Me," and personal economics, "The Last Laugh." His lyrics have a visual power that few writers, regardless of the genre, can equal. Lines such as "shakin' like some crazy old hooker on meth" evoke images that transcend standard pop lyrics. "I wanted every song to be as uniquely written as possible…and be sad and funny at the same time."

Musically Snider's songs fall into two primary categories – blues and country. "Unorganized Crime" uses an acoustic country blues figure to drive the tune forward. Make no mistake (I've been listening to far too many Obama speeches), Snider isn't any kind of blues or country purist. He manipulates these forms to suit his narrative and artistic needs. On "Greencastle Blues," Snider combines Randy Newmanesque lyrics and Tin Pan Alley sentiment with a slick Nashville Skyline-like pedal steel tinged backing to create a mood that transcends anything you've heard from more conventional songwriters.

Past Snider albums run the gambit from solo acoustic live folk such as Near Truths and Hotel Rooms to electrified rock and roll on Viva Satellite. The Excitement Plan splits the difference. Some cuts, like "Slim Chance," feature Snider with only his fingerpicked guitar. Others, like "Greencastle Blues" include a full backing band. Producer Don Was, during his long and illustrious career, has handled everything from hardcore funk (Was Not Was) to Bob Dylan. Was' eclectic background allows him to tailor each song's arrangement to maximize its impact. Using a small band made up of Snider on guitar, harp, and piano, Greg Liesz on steel guitar and dobro, Jim Keltner on drums and Was on upright bass, Don Was creates spare arrangements that highlight each song like a blue velvet pillow holding a diamond necklace. Does modern folk music get any better than this? I don't think so.

 

 

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