Monday, February 16, 2009

Trains: Play a Train Song

Todd Snider: Play a Train Song


May I just tell you how much I love Todd Snider?!? - he's been one of my favorite singer-songwriters ever since I first heard his Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues, a hidden track on his Songs for the Daily Planet CD, waaaaay back in 1994.

He comes across as a stoner dude (could be some validity to that... :-) but his ability to memorize and play not only hundreds of his own songs but those of his heroes (Robert Earl Keen, John Prine and Bob Dylan among them) shows he's in full faculty of more brain cells than all his fans combined will ever lose. His tunes range from hysterical (Beer Run) to heart-wrenching (You Think You Know Somebody) - he's a consummate songwriter, clever without being predictable, educational without being preachy and emotional without being smarmy.

His way with a phrase is beyond brilliant ("I've always been afraid of a 12 step crowd, they laugh too much and talk too loud, like they all know where everyone should be"... "Got a lump on my head and a boot print on my chest from what the guys in here call the Tillamook County lie detector test"... "You know that was so underhanded, grabbing him just as you landed, after holding me the whole time you fell"... "Fighting for peace, that's like screaming for quiet") - for a while there, I used one of his lyrics to evaluate the people in my life ("you're either out of control or you're stuck"... :-)

I've seen him live a handful of times (he almost always plays barefoot), once at the 2001 Folk Alliance in Vancouver (I went to all his showcases) and on a few more occasions at The Bamboo Room here in South Florida, an intimate listening space which has unfortunately since closed down - I have his Vinyl Records T-shirt, his Peace Love Anarchy baseball cap (which Janis Ian commented on this past July at Falcon Ridge, saying she and Todd were e-mail buddies), every commercial CD he's ever released and quite a few bootlegs made available through his avid fanbase, a few DVDs... and countless memories of the joy his music has given me: priceless!

His website is newly re-done... and check out EighteenMinutes, a fan-driven site named for the monologue he usually does during his shows (“Some of it’s sad, some of it’s funny, and sometimes I’ll go on for as many as 18 minutes in between the songs.”) - Todd never fails to amaze... and challenge... and entertain!

Play a Train Song was written in honor and memory of Todd's friend and self-proclaimed mayor of East Nashville, Kenneth Francis “Skip” Litz, who yelled out his request for a train song at every live show he attended, told every woman he met how beautiful she was... and spent the last six months of his life as Snider’s tour manager before dying of cancer in July 2003...

In May 2007, Rich Willis, a creative and generous Todd-lister put together (and made available to the list) "Tales From Moondawg's Tavern, a compilation of Todd's stories [with the associated song] thru the years" (backstory here and download info here) - in Todd's own words, the scoop on Skip can be found on Disc 3, track 9 (I tried uploading, but I guess the 25-minute runtime was too much!).

As a consolation prize, here's a great YouTube video with an Uncle Skip visitation... :-)

For more Todd, here's a wonderful April 2007 interview by Frank Goodman of Puremusic...

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