What defines a man? His intellectual persuits? His stamina? His grooming?
In the case of Todd Snider, it may well be a level of honesty – or, more exactly, what that honesty reveals.
In describing a new band project that will come into public view in 2014, Snider’s conversational pace simulated a rush hour traffic jam. Sentences and thoughts ran at a feverish pace, often bumping into each other while seeking their destinations. There was laughter. There was blunt seriousness. There was focus. There was scattered frenzy. Then Snider paused, grabbed hold of some honesty and made a confession.
“Man, I’m just babbling.”
It wasn’t an apology. It didn’t need to be. It was simply a reflection of how the gears work for Snider, the famed East Nashville songwriter who has fashioned a strong Lexington following over the past two decades. The bond with local audiences remains strong enough, in fact, that Snider will be sharing some of his holiday weekend with us. He will perform a solo acoustic concert at Buster’s on Friday. This will be his first performance since a co-billled June 2012 concert with Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood at the Opera House, a show Snider remembers well for all the wrong reasons.
“Boy, I was really sick that night,” Snider recalled. “I couldn’t play and there I was with Patterson. He’s one of my all time favorites, man. Especially that last record he did, the folk one (Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance). Sometimes people make records that are so good I send them hate mail.
“I ended up going through all these tests and found out I had this really terrible ulcer. I wound up falling down onstage and going to the emergency room. I remember I called Patterson a couple of days later and said, ‘Man, the next time we do a gig, I’m going to it. I swear.’
The performance followed the near simultaneous release of two recordings – a folk-rock driven platter of social, political and personal venting called Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables and a tribute album devoted to the songs of Texas hill country troubadour Jerry Jeff Walker titled Time As We Know It.
But Snider was a few light years removed from those projects during our conversation. Foremost in the ideas racing through his mind was a new band he has formed with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools, Neal Casal (of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Duane Trucks (bandmate of Col. Bruce Hampton) and longtime pal Chad Steahly (Great American Taxi).
Snider serves merely as vocalist for the troupe, whose repertoire consists of beloved rock, folk and Americana tunes by Gillian Welch, Randy Newman, The Bottle Rockets, Elizabeth Cook and others rewired with a “heavy hippie rock” sound. The band will issue an album early in 2014 and undertake a brief 20-show tour around the members’ other performance commitments.
“It happened how I liked things to have things happen,” Snider said. “I usually will go with something if it’s really easy. I picture it as a leaf falling off a tree and landing in a creek. It just sort of keeps rolling on. That’s about as much effort I want to put in.
“David Schools and I started talking about songwriting and how I felt the Americana world and jam world make up a party that is just waiting to collide in a big way. You’ve got a whole nation of kids working on their poems and a whole other nation of kids working on how to put music underneath them. I said, ‘Someday, that’s going to collide.’ Then he said, ‘Well, why not today?’
“We all knew each other a bit before we really came together underneath this band name and the ironic thing we thought it meant. I mean, here we were, all these total burnouts and we’re calling ourselves the Hard Working Americans.”
Todd Snider performs at 9
pm Nov. 29 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 368-8871 or go towww.bustersbb.com.