“I think it started when I joined a jam band.” You just know when someone, whose been making singer-songwriter solo albums for the last twenty five years or so starts with that explainer for his new album, you need to lean in a bit.
The conversation I recorded with Todd Snider a few weeks ago when his new album, ‘First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder,’ came out was as enjoyable a chat as I’ve enjoyed all year. Todd is a poet, a prophet and quite possibly the voice we most need to hear coming out of the southern states of the USA right now. I talked to him a day after the one year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and I knew there was much of that terrible day which had helped shape his thinking for the record. On the song, ‘Battle Hymn of The Album,’ he channels the old story of the Civil War and John Brown’s soldiers still marching on into a chant of ‘Get down on the ground.’ America’s legacy of slavery and segregation is front and central in all of this and the irony that Todd (a white southerner) uses African American funk to tell this story is not lost on him. What you will hear from the conversation however, is his deep respect of where that music came from.
On the album Todd takes on the character of a preacher, which in real life he became, to carry out the wedding ceremony of the current King and Queen of Americana, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. All of that came out of a deep friendship that grew between the three of them a couple of albums back. It was lovely to hear Todd talk in such glowing terms about the young group of country/Americana artists who’ve given us so much pleasure over the last few years. As well as Jason and Amanda he talks in glowing terms about Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Sierra Ferrell and, of course, Chris Stapleton. There’s also a great tribute to the great Eric Church where Todd compares Nashville today to the halcyon period of the seventies when the mainstream and the alternative were finding common ground in fresh new ways. Amen to all of that.
There’s so much more in the conversation with Todd in the chat you can hear on this week’s AC. Listen out too to his delight at Tom Jones recent cover of a song from his last album, ‘Talking Reality Television Blues.’
There’s more though, so much more on this week’s show. Listen out for new music from Alan Jackson, Hailey Whitters and something else from the excellent new album by Allison Russell. We think you’ll enjoy discovering Lady Nade and will welcome Teddy Thompson and Jenni Muldaur‘s new tribute to Porter and Dolly.
All of this is available from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland this Tuesday evening or whenever you like on BBC Sounds. Look out soon too for my Ricky Ross Meets series becoming available any time, anywhere as part of BBC Podcasts. If you want to keep me company, I’m sure you’ll know where to find me.