Todd Snider

Live: The Storyteller

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"I make these songs up an' I sing ‘em for anyone that'll listen to ‘em. Some of ‘em are sad, some are funny, some are short, some seem like they go on forever, sometimes I may ramble on for as many as 18 minutes in between a particular song … I wanna thank y'all for giving me a chance to do this again, and if everything goes particularly well this evening, we can all expect a 90-minute distraction from our impending doom." Todd Snider addresses his audience for the first of several times about 14 minutes into this two-disc live album, and in about a minute, he sums up his outlook and his performing style so well that a further review almost seems superfluous. But Live: The Storyteller does capture Snider's gifts as a singer and songwriter, as well as his gift for interacting with an audience, in ways that aren't always revealed in his extensive between-song patter. First and foremost, Snider is a humorist with a heart and soul, and if he goes for laughs in the shaggy dog stories that he spreads out between songs, tunes like "Is This Thing Working," "Play a Train Song," and "The Devil You Know" show the guy can set aside the goofy for a while and say something that's more than a joke. Snider hasn't been blessed with an exceptionally good voice, but it suits the scrappy, conversational tone of his lyrics just right, and he's learned how to make his tunes work in front of an audience. And while he may have plenty of fans on the jam band circuit, he's smart enough to know his tunes aren't meant to be stretched out too far, and Snider and Great American Taxi (the band who back him on most of these tracks) keep the soloing concise, and their interaction is soulful, driving the music with an insistence that belies Snider's ambling nature. If you're looking for an introduction to Snider's songwriting, you might be better off with That Was Me: The Best of Todd Snider 1994-1998, a collection of tunes from his first three albums, but if you want to know why Snider has a loyal and growing following as a live act, Live: The Storyteller will tell you all you need to know about his rapport with a crowd and his way of making his songs and stories come to life, and in this case, he fends off impending doom for all of 115 minutes, which means he's giving us an extra 25 minutes as a bonus. That's a showman!

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