Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.9.07

A Friend of the Devil
Todd Snider is the ruffian you know

At the hour of our scheduled interview, Todd Snider was in the studio, so we rescheduled for the same time, same place the next day. Twenty-four hours later, he was in the studio again, on a mission to record as many songs as he could in the remaining hours he had booked at a Nashville recording studio manned by Eric McConnell. McConnell’s unnamed studio is the same place where Loretta Lynn recorded her Grammy-winning Van Lear Rose, and it’s been the setting for Snider’s past two albums.

Todd Snider. 9 pm Saturday, Aug. 11 John Henry’s. $16 adv., $18 door. 21+ show

When we finally spoke, Snider revealed that he and McConnell finished 10 songs, but he had one song written that they didn’t have time for. “I wish I could make up one more song,” Snider said by phone from his Nashville home, “and then I think I would be done. I booked the studio again for August 17, and hopefully I can make up a song by then!” He couldn’t promise to play any of the new material when he comes through town — not because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t have it memorized yet. “I don’t sing good enough to care what the singin’ sounds like, so mostly we just sing it ’til I get all the words right in a row, and that’s the vocal,” he quips. “I don’t know if I’m ready to try that in front of a crowd.”

It’s partly that characteristic honesty that draws people to Snider’s music. Snider is a unique brand of songwriter who truly straddles the divide between rock and country, The Stones and Bob Dylan, Rolling Stone and No Depression. Snider’s 2005 release, The Devil You Know, was on the best of the year lists of both of those magazines as well as those of Blender and NPR. Snider is the tough guy who notices sunsets, a troubadour with a poet’s heart, the guy who will blog about getting into a shouting match with a fellow customer while trying to procure his morning coffee. (“One of us is a real jerk. I’m not sure which.”) His sense of humor and humility comes across in all of his songs, even if the subject matter is heart-attack serious. Snider is a gem to see live — the stories he tells about his songs are as engaging as the songs themselves — and he’s got lots of stories.