Monday, October 12, 2009

Under Vulcan watch, Todd Snider rhymes of optimistic chances

Under the watch of Birmingham’s giant iron statue Vulcan, I spent a partly-clear Sunday afternoon on Red Mountain listening to singer-songwriter Todd Snider spin his rhythmic, rhyming, sometimes-optimistic realism at a Vulcan Aftertune’s music event, and I felt much better for it.

Snider, who plays blues guitar and harmonica and sings his clever word-play songs while barefoot and smiling, has been called “one of roots music’s slyest and smartest songwriters.” (SPIN magazine).

On this Sunday afternoon in Birmingham at an outdoor concert held at my hometown’s mountaintop statue of the Roman god of fire and metalworking, Snider retained his place on my list of favorite singer-songwriters.

Plus, with songs like Slim Chance, he soothed my unemployed, sometimes poor-me soul with an optimistic look at hard times and extenuating circumstances.

I knew of Snider for his many songs, among the most well known being Alright Guy and the clever, college-age mantra Beer Run, and for Waco Moon, a brutal, sad and honest tribute to Eddy Shaver, the late son of another of my songwriting heroes, Billy Joe Shaver. In Waco Moon, Snider laments that if you “Quit too late you're gonna die too soon,” about the talented, guitar-playing Eddy, who died of a drug overdose on New Year’s Eve 2000.

Like Billy Joe Shaver -- the original Honky Tonk Hero who wrote that hit for Waylon Jennings and suitcases full of other classics with lines like “the devil made me do it the first time/the second time I did it on my own (Black Rose) -- Snider writes songs that make you listen, think, reflect, laugh, cry and hope.

But it was Snider’s upbeat take on dealing with what life brings you which helped me on this day. His latest release, The Excitement Plan, includes a great, rocking duet Don’t Tempt Me, which he co-wrote and sang with Loretta Lynn, and the song Slim Chance, which spoke most plainly to me, as I approach the one-year anniversary of my downsizing and surpass the 15-month mark in my employment search.

There’s always hope; it just depends on how you look at it.
I think that’s what Snider was saying to me, the usual optimist, in Slim Chance.

“I found a four leaf clover/In my yard today
It had one leaf missing off it/But that was okay
Looking it over I could easily see/Four is only just one more than three
That's close enough for me/Must be my lucky day

A slim chance/Is still a chance.
A slim chance/Is still a chance
Hey hey/You don't necessarily have to pay the fiddler to dance”

Thanks Todd Snider, I needed that.

Picture of the day:
Todd Snider plays at Birmingham's Vulcan Aftertunes, October 11, 2009
Songs of the day:
Slim Chance, Todd Snider
Old Chunk of Coal, Billy Joe Shaver

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