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Todd Snider
    Thursday March 15, 2012 12:00am - 12:40am @ St David's Historic Sanctuary (301 E 8th St Austin, TX 78701)

    Todd Snider: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables bio
    Todd Snider is on the happy back end of happy hour at a favorite East Nashville bar,
    talking about his new album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. “This record doesnʼt
    come from good times,” Snider says. “I wanted to sound the way I feel, which
    sometimes means sounding like a broken soul.”
    On the 10 new songs, Snider doesnʼt talk around the vulnerable part, or the angry part,
    or the part about how everything weʼre taught about goodness and righteousness and
    capitalism, about God and family values winds up exploding into violence and chaos,
    wonder and longing. He might carry the mantle of “storyteller” – itʼs what he titled his live
    record, after all – but Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is anything but a nice,
    folk/Americana troubadour album.
    Itʼs not a nice anything.
    It is jagged, leering, lurching and howling, and filled with unhappy endings both
    experienced and intimated: “It ainʼt the despair that gets you, itʼs the hope,” he sings in
    the album-closer, “Big Finish.” That Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is also roaringly
    funny is tribute to Sniderʼs unique sensibilities, and to his standing as what Rolling
    Stone magazine calls “Americaʼs sharpest musical storyteller.” Anguish without laughter
    is boring, like intensive care without morphine, and Snider has never been within 100
    miles of boring. Also, he didnʼt earn the attention, friendship and fandom of American
    musical giants like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine by writing mopey protest songs.
    Anyway, these arenʼt protest songs and theyʼre not meant to incite class warfare
    (though he knows they might anyway). Theyʼre populated mostly by losers in the midst
    of losing, with a couple of spotlight appearances from the humbly anointed 1 percent. At
    albumʼs outset (“In The Beginning”), Snider credits the church with sustaining peace by
    noting that “We still need religion to keep the poor from killing the rich.” From there, itʼs
    on to the certainty of warped karma (“Good things happen to bad people,” he sings in
    “New York Banker.”), to a remarkable reworking of “West Nashville Grand Ballroom
    Gown” (possibly the albumʼs most acerbic song, and from the pen of Jimmy Buffett...
    no, really), and a slew of stories inspired by the world at large, writ small and barbed, in
    a manner both penetrating and empathetic. Thereʼs one happy love song, called
    “Brenda,” about Sniderʼs favorite couple, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
    “I admire that relationship a lot,” Snider says. “What Mick and Keith have is real, and it
    canʼt be touched and it canʼt be beat. Iʼve never met them, but I believe in the Rolling
    Stones. Thatʼs who I think about at Christmas, anymore. They opened their hearts and
    gave us so much. And they tried to be true to each other.”
    Musically, Snider and co-producer Eric McConnell sought a sound that mirrored the
    times and that didnʼt replicate anything theyʼd done together on critically acclaimed
    works East Nashville Skyline, The Devil You Know or Peace Queer. With McConnell on
    bass and Snider playing guitar and harmonica, they gathered a core band of
    percussionist Paul Griffith, violinist/vocalist (and gifted songwriter) Amanda Shires, and
    keyboard player Chad Staehly, along with guest guitarist Jason Isbell and harmony
    vocalist Mick Utley, and offered up a sonic mission.
    “I told them I wanted to make a mess,” Snider says. “That was the goal.”
    And so a handful of accomplished musicians set about making a mess. And did so.
    Shiresʼ violin is the call-and-response heroine to Sniderʼs lyrics, filling the role Scarlett
    Rivera filled for Bob Dylan on Desire. Only messier. Meanwhile, Griffith makes like
    some off-kilter offspring of Keith Moon and Zigaboo Modeliste while Sniderʼs guitar
    plays lead switchblade.
    The result is something disconcerting, cracked and wholly original. Itʼs something that
    stands apart from the music of Sniderʼs heroes, and from Sniderʼs own, muchcelebrated
    past. Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is Sniderʼs 12th album (14th, if we
    count a “best of” set and a collection of B-sides and demos), and it uses its
    predecessors not as a compass but as a trampoline. Snider found different song forms,
    different inspirations (from Alaska neʼer do well Digger Dave to Chicago Mayor, former
    White House Chief of Staff and friend..... no, really..... Rahm Emanuel) and different
    means of expression. He paints a world where begging turns to mugging, where
    investment turns to ruin, where babies grow into felons, where honesty is blunt trauma:
    “Wish I could show you how you hurt me in a way that wouldnʼt hurt you, too,” he sings.
    And thereʼs no way.


    Type Band, Official
    Hashtag #sxsw #ToddSnider
    Tags All, Singer-Songwriter
    Website http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_MS17070

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