photos by Melissa Clarke
The barefoot Todd Snider led a spellbound audience through meaningful observation, dreams, songs, and sidesplitting laughter last Monday night at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.
Although Snider told the packed room his songs were never serious, they absolutely are. It’s just that he has a singular knack for approaching even grave topics with wry reflection, switchback layering, and uproarious anecdotes.
He hopped up onstage with his sidekick traveling companion, his dog, the easygoing fellow fans all know is Cowboy Jim. The first song was from his brand new release Cash Cabin Sessions vol. 3: the complex “Talking Television Reality Show Blues.” This was quickly followed by “Working on a Song,” with perfect delivery in between about the meta-analysis and sometimes elusive hall of mirrors that songwriting is.
Todd Snider started taking requests mid set. The first was “Play a Train Song” about Snider’s former road manager who is now deceased; but who had been Snider’s friend: Skip “play a fucking train song” Litz, also sometimes known as “the unofficial mayor of east Nashville.”
Someone shouted out “Horseshoe Lake,” and as he was setting up to play that one Snider said with his understated, pointed tone: “I made this one up with my friend Will Kimbrough, he’s made a lot of great songs…”
Leading into “Conservative Christian … American Males” he told the crowd “this song is more like a speech than a story, this one is about the hate of tree-huggin’ lazy ass hippes like me.” Snider is a master of leading his fun, hilarious between-song stories directly into the songs themselves, and he was completely “on” this night, never missing a beat and with a smile on his face every second, and often with a giggle to boot.
The set also included “Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern,” which Snider dedicated to Aaron Allen, songwriter for Willie Nelson, who had once told Todd that the key to good songwriting is to keep your life simple enough that you can pack everything up and go with 15 minutes lead time. The room was locked in with Snider as one entity on “DB Cooper,” “Too Soon to Tell,” Just Like Overnight,” and “Better Than Ever Blues part 2.” Then the energy increased with the run of songs from “Statisticians Blues,” to “Beer Run,” and “Just Like Old Times,” and by the time he got to “Carla” and “Allright Guy” the entire room was singing along. And on “Like a Force of Nature” Todd Snider just sang out loud with all his heart.
Snider popped offstage and then he was back on for his encores, at which point Cowboy Jim loped his way to the front of the stage to eager outstretched hands, and Snider said “there he goes, doing his Jagger moves!” all very much to the crowd’s delight.
There were three encores: first, “Can’t Complain,” and then “Blues on Banjo.” It was a real treat for everyone there to hear Todd Snider playing banjo. He reminded the crowd of the truism that the banjo is normally too happy sounding to play the blues on, but he then proceeded to demonstrate he had broken that barrier, playing the banjo like you’ve never seen it played before in true innovation. Then it was the “Legend of Colonel Bruce Hampton,” and the night seemed to be drawing to a close too soon.
It was a Monday night of amazing and dexterous acoustic guitar playing, a banjo treat, a canine showman, and songs full of layers within layers of lyrical tales and observations. You’ve got to catch his show live to hear the stories for yourself. https://toddsnider.net/ And catch our interview with Todd right here: Interview: Todd Snider on Cash Cabin Sessions, Dreams and Songwriting
Scroll down below these pictures for Reed Foehl review.
As hard as it is to be an opening act, the Birchmere audience knows how to listen with respect on any given night, and for that they were clearly happily rewarded on Monday night as well. Reed Foehl captured the audience’s attention with his own set of significant songwriting. He told the crowd he has lost his mom and now his aunt, playing “Good-bye World” which has also appeared on the last season of Vampire Diaries’ final episode. In addition to his own originals from his recent album Lucky Enough, Foehl played the John Prine song “Mexican Home.” On one song from his latest record, “Long Time to Make Old Friends” Foehl had the audience singing along enthusiastically: “when the time comes.”
At the end of his set, Foehl introduced his next song as “one called “Fly” that I co-wrote with Brent Cobb,” but the bigger treat was that he announced his brother — songwriter and author Stewart Lewis– “lives around here.” “He is going to join me onstage” and the room was treated to siblings singing together, family surviving in the wake of loss. Absolutely check out Reed Foehl’s stuff, here: https://www.reedfoehlmusic.com/
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