Modern folk rarely includes storytelling. Todd Snider is, therefore, an anachronism: a true bard who spends at least as much time contextualizing songs as he does playing them.
Originally from Oregon, Snider has accumulated barrels of yarns over 15-plus years on the road — such as becoming the unlikely frontman of a Memphis country band after the lead singer was knocked unconscious by a drunk patron falling off a ceiling swing (to take one example from Snider’s most recent live album, which came out in February).
In keeping with the form, championed in America by activists like Guthrie, Seeger, Dylan, Ochs, et al., there’s political fare too: notably the song “Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight White American Male.” But while Snider may be old school, he is no revolutionary. “I might share some of my opinions with you over the course of the evening,” he is wont to disclaim at the outset of shows, “not because I think they’re smart, or because I think you need to know them, but because they rhyme. I didn’t come down here to change any of y’alls minds about anything, I come down here to ease my own mind about everything.”
Apropos, much of Snider’s work celebrates people and places that, like him, “don’t wanna throw [their] fishing line in the old mainstream.” On “Sideshow Blues” (a near clone of Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”), Snider sings: “It’s a circus out here, Mama, I got them sideshow blues.” One reading: I may be a freak, but the rest of the world is an absurd pageant too, just with a bigger budget and more pyrotechnics.
The sideshow is the main event at The Birchmere tonight. Tickets still available.
TODD SNIDER w/ MARSHALL CHAPMAN, THE BIRCHMERE (Map), TONIGHT, 7:30 P.M., $25