Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Todd Snider "I Never Met A Story I Didn't Like"

I spent last weekend a prisoner like I have many weekends, trapped in the Whiskey Wagon rolling across America’s highways.  I have found myself driving back and forth through Cincinnati four times in the last two weeks, and I think we can agree that save for that horrible stretch of I-90 in Indiana, the I-71 drive from Columbus to Cincinnati is the worst length of highway in the region.  It is flat and unremarkable, except for that one crazy hillbilly house with the painted Confederate Flag roof and rotting cars strewn about the yard.  That’s really close to those “God Will Strike You Dead” signs that I always thought Uncle Scratch should have used for a promo photo.  Those guys just ran out of time.  What can you do?  No one ever tells you how much you have left… 

I made use of my time by reading the new Todd Snider book “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like”.  I hope that you know Todd Snider.  Well, not personally… That’s asking a bit much.  I never met him, but by the amount of time he has spent in various rehab facilities and the laundry list of cool celebrity friends he has, I think I’d like to hang out with him.  He’s got some great stories.  Let me give you the Todd Snider lowdown if you aren’t on board.

Todd Snider started out making some records for MCA that sounded like Tom Petty records if Tom Petty was a guy that delivered a pizza to your house and then lived on your couch for a few months.  He has since gone back to be the shaggy dog country folk artist he always wanted to be, like his hero Jerry Jeff Walker.  While I don’t always like every song on every album, I always seem to find a bunch that stick in my head and I can’t ever shake.  He is one of those guys that is really talented and probably doesn’t get as much run as he should since he seems like such a slacker.  He’s like that Wooderson guy that Matthew McConaughey played in “Dazed and Confused” but then rips out a guitar and plays a few songs that make you laugh, pauses for second and plays one that rips your guts out.  He’s really good.  You should buy a few of his records.  You'll want to buy more after that first purchase.  He grows on you.

His book is sort of like this blog, but has a lot more celebrities.  For example, think about some of the more sordid stories I have banged out and substitute Kris Kristofferson for Leo, and you’ll get the idea.  Drifting around playing songs on the fringes while being in and out of drug addiction leads a fella to meet some characters that people working at Dunder Mifflin don’t typically run into.  I have always found that people living on the margins are much more interesting than those on the High Ground, and Mr. Snider is way beyond my embrace for these modern day pirates.  He seems at home with the people that the General Population fears and avoids.  He seems to find the unique individuals out there that have decided that they are going to do their own thing, and could care less about public opinion from the people too scared to follow their own muse.    

Something I found really compelling and inspiring in the book was the theme of living in the moment and for the experience.  Snider maintains that unless a songwriter is willing to put him/herself in precarious positions and allow themselves to be knocked around by life, that it is impossible to create material that actually will resonate with anyone.  If you think about it for even a second, it becomes apparent that is an insanely ballsy way to approach life.  Jerry Jeff Walker passed a lesson down, for better or worse, that a songwriter needed to be able to pack up their possessions and move in 15 minutes.  If not willing to risk it all, there can be no real gain.  Try that on for size.  That’s a combination of courage and fear of responsibility that is definitely worthy of spirited debate.

What is not worthy of debate is the story telling ability of Snider.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  When a guy has to make a living standing in front of a crowd with nothing but a guitar and a gift of gab, chances are that he will learn how to tell a crowd pleasing story.  He does.  Over and over again.  The book is a collection of wild stories, personal philosophy and unabashed fandom of some of his personal musical heroes.  It’s an easy read, and flows like a guy that is smoking weed and telling tall tales in a hotel room after party.  Trust me, this is a guy who you’d like to have tell you a story or two.  Check it out…        


At May 15, 2014 at 12:43:00 PM EDT , Blogger Frank said...

I met Todd Snider in 1992 at my ex-wife’s 10 year high school class reunion, two years before his he released his first recording. He had accompanied a classmate of my ex-wife’s and sat directly across from me at the table. We talked quite a bit and he kept saying how much he liked my tie (as you know, he does like to wear ties). At some point later in the evening after a rather raucous dance to “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”, I took the tie off and sat it on the table and went back on the dance floor. When I returned a little later, both Todd and my tie were gone.

Fast forward five years later, to 1997, and I’m browsing the “buck bin” (promo cd’s mostly, all sold for $1) at Eide’s in downtown Pittsburgh and I see a CD for Todd Snider. The named seemed familiar as I had been quite pissed about losing the tie and kept trying to find the guy, years before the internet and google. In any case I pick it up and glanced at his mug on the cover and immediately said “sum bitch, that’s the fucker that stole my tie”! I quickly took it to the cashier figuring I could get some contact information so I could send him a note about the tie. However, as fate would have, I put the cd in my car for the drive home and after the first listen, I was quite honored that he had stole my tie. I still to this day, and with no success, look at Google images for him in hopes of some day seeing my tie again on him. It was probably one of the things he left behind during one of his 15 minute moves.

His name came up last Summer when I had Otis Gibbs and Matthew Ryan play at my establishment. Otis and Matthew both banged into him a bit around East Nashville years ago. In any case, Otis told me to check this out…

This is the link to the Otis Gibbs “Thanks for Giving a Damn” interview with Matthew Ryan recorded the day after the show at my place where they mention being concerned about how they’re be received at my little venue in the backwoods of Western PA

I should say I'm a huge Todd Snider fan too. A wonderful songwriter, performer and petty thief.

Ride on,

At May 15, 2014 at 4:22:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

That comment is so much better than my blog post...


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