Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like (Mostly True Tall Tales) - Book Review

Da Capo Press

“I hate Todd Snider and I’m going to tell you why.”  No, not me, I kinda like the guy. I enjoy his songs, his goofy stories, and his general outlook on life.  That line came from a review Todd read about himself   and it made its way into his first book, a collection of remembrances, lyrics and an unflinching look into the life of a singer-songwriter. That he includes this piece of information in a chapter in this book is very telling, because he doesn’t go on to talk about why the reviewer didn’t like him or his music, because that part’s actually irrelevant. Todd uses this as a teaching moment (yeah, I know…life lessons from this guy, whose motto is “safety third?”) about fame and why artists sing their songs for others.  Todd says that if you’re doing it so that people will like you, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Having seen Todd Snider perform several times and listened to all his records and literally dozens and dozens of live recordings, I thought I had heard all his stories and this book would be a rehash of things I already knew. Part of that’s true, of course, there are times when he retells his stories verbatim, or at least as verbatim as is allowed in his patented stoner-speak, stumbling cadence, but in every case, he largely takes advantage of the medium of print to dig deeper into his adventures, like meeting his buddy Moondawg of Moondawg’s Tavern fame. (They threw him out of so many bars/he finally built one in his own backyard.) Songs and stories that you just know are made up out of his own head turn out to be actual, factual things that have happened to Snider. Todd credits Jerry Jeff Walker as his main inspiration but it seems the chorus of Kristofferson’s The Pilgrim – Chapter 33 when he’s stoned could easily be Todd’s bio. (He's a poet, he's a picker/He's a prophet, he's a pusher/He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned/He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,takin' ev'ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.)

I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like is just shy of three hundred pages, but if you’re like me and go back to re-read a paragraph or  two, just to savor the words and roll them around in your head, it will take you much longer to read.  For someone who appears to be busy most of the time just passing a bong around, he is surprisingly introspective about his life, what he does and why.  He’s like the Buddha of East Nashville. He invariably has something nice to say about everybody – the guy who yells Beer Run all through the show, the guy who stole his song (but it’s okay, Todd stole one of his back), groupies, drug dealers, police, you name it. Fans of Todd’s music won’t need to read this review to know that they’ll want to pick up this book. Music fans in general will appreciate this look into the life of an artist, but I think this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good story, even if they are mostly true.

Curtis Lynch
June 2014

No comments: