Todd Snider,
East Nashville Skyline
(Oh Boy, 2004)

Todd Snider writes and sings songs that will draw you in and hold your attention to the final line and chord. In the best tradition, his stories are about life and are not afraid to use humour as easily as drama.

One of my favourites is "Tillamook County Jail." "Play a Train Song" is another gem as it gives us a short story set to music and some excellent phrasing.

Hank Williams is brought to life again in the sad tale, "Alcohol & Pills." The track goes on to lament the effects of those drugs on music icons including Elvis, Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons and others. This is a great track deserving much more exposure. It is a beautiful examination of the fact that "fame don't take away the pain."

Snider has an obvious love of the music game and this is evident in his songs about music legends, like his intriguing "Ballad of the Kingsmen" and the satirical slant on how the how the establishment are conspiracy mad about the lyrics of popular music. From "Louie Louie" through Marilyn Manson, he asks us about our values in a modern world.

The more you hear of this album, the more it will make you think. The songs are brilliant commentaries on modern life, much as Dylan sang the 1960s. He has a crystal-clear eye for detail and observation and he has the talent to put the thoughts into sparkling lyrics.

The title says it all on "Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White American Males," as he "tells it like is." This is what folk music is all about and should be required listening -- although it might be banned during presidential elections.

"Nashville" is a rolling, rocking look at the city of music that will have you bopping beyond belief. This is Jerry Lee sound in 2004, and it is infectious.

Do not be deceived by the title "Sunshine." This is a sad and dark song that cannot fail to make any listener think of how life can be so bleak. It puts us into the mind of a person contemplating suicide. But dark songs are essential, too, if we are to understand modern life.

Snider closes the album with his take on "Enjoy Yourself" and reminds us to do just that. Why spend your life accumulating wealth to have a great time in your rocking chair?

Listen to East Nashville Skyline and you will enjoy yourself, but you will also think and that's what life is about. This is one of the best albums that I have heard in 2004.

In some ways, this is Michael Moore but with a good voice, great tunes and deep thoughts. It is modern life set to music. (A slight parental advisory may apply.)

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 13 November 2004

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