Todd Snider: The Excitement Plan

Over the course of his career, Todd Snider’s gained a well-deserved reputation as something of a smart-ass, an artist who apparently can’t resist the temptation to mingle his sentiment with satire, much the same as Kinky Friedman, Randy Newman, Shel Silverstein and other musicians known for their humor and chutzpah. Snider’s last effort, the obviously irreverent Peace Queer EP, found that line between sarcasm and sincerity all the more difficult to discern, and even though The Excitement Plan has Snider turning somewhat introspective, its also clear that his tongue is still situated comfortably in his cheek. Even so, Snider seems to be plowing his roots, turning down the amps and relying primarily on acoustic guitar, piano and harp for a steady, bluesy shuffle. The rustic appeal brings to mind more esteemed musical masters like J.J. Cale and Dr. John, but when he opts for a weathered and reflective perspective – as on “Greencastle Blues” and “Corpus Christi Bay” – the music becomes unexpectedly endearing. Happily, Snider’s observations are as wry as ever – borne out by the trippy tale of the ballplayer who pitched a no-hitter zonked on acid (“America’s Favorite Pastime”), an amiable diatribe on the spoils of success (“Money, Compliments, Publicity”) and a rambling lament about a shiftless spouse (“Barefoot Champagne”). Whether or not The Excitement Plan is as energized as its title suggests may be a matter of debate, but there’s no denying the lure of these entertaining observations. (Yep Roc)

Todd Snider MySpace page


Straw Dogs: Love and Then Hope

Seattle’s Straw Dogs tackle just about every sound they can handle on this album’s 14 tracks. The disc’s opener “Lie Awake” is fair enough, but everything takes off in earnest for the second tune, “Could You,” featuring a fairly knotty arrangement that pays off at the choruses. The band teeters between semi-precious songs like “Serious Love” and “Fire Outside,” and more muscular workouts such as “Fallow” and “Down My Hall.” There’s twang a-plenty in these creations, and the group isn’t afraid to wear its love for Americana on its sleeve. It runs a bit long as some of the songs start blending into one another after a while, but what’s here is strong enough for a good overall impression. Had they trimmed away four songs from the disc, they may have had an instant classic. But there’s nothing wrong with the occasional flawed masterpiece. (Crafty Records)

Straw Dogs MySpace page


Brett Terry: Instant History

Brett Terry probably means well, but there’s so much going against him on this album that he almost needn’t have bothered. The production is dangerously thin and Terry’s voice isn’t one that’s going to incite excitement in anyone’s mind in the long run. The man’s no Bob Dylan, unfortunately for him. But away he goes nevertheless crooning away on such ditties as “Unharmed” and limping through embarrassments like “Rock Star” that strive to be something (lyrically, anyway) along the lines of the Who’s “Success Story,” but fails in a terrible fashion. You just can’t believe Terry when he sings this stuff because he’s absolutely unconvincing as both a singer and a songwriter. Unfortunately, he even feels the need to attempt the Beatles classic “If I Needed Someone” by multi-tracking his vocals against his bare acoustic guitar. He completely kills it, like other people have done when covering the Fab Four. One of these days there will be a law against committing such a musical crime. Not that Terry hasn’t done enough damage here with his own tunes. Pass. (Leverkuhn Records)

Brett Terry MySpace page