Every now and then an artist comes along who reminds us to look beyond our surroundings and consider what’s going on in this world. For years now, folk singer Todd Snider has been one of those artists. If you haven’t yet answered his knock, perhaps the release of his latest album, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables, will be a rap at the door too inspiring to ignore.
On Agnostic Hymns, Snider wades neck deep into the fray between America’s rich and poor—the thoughtful and hilarious singer/songwriter said he merely wanted to paint a picture from his vantage point.
“It wasn’t my intent to enter any discussion,” Snider wrote in a recent email. “My intent as a word-maker-upper is to open my heart and take the words out of it and share them with people. I have to appreciate being listened to, not being liked.”
Even without intending to enter the conversation, the album’s first track “In the Beginning” pits the haves and have-nots against each other. The discussion continues on the second track, “New York Banker,” which observes that, sometimes, good things happen to bad people. The song is both an indictment and an encouragement, though Snider says it wasn’t directed at anyone specifically.
“Music is a great opportunity to needle people and encourage people. The only problem is, you don’t get to control who or why or how,” Snider said. “I like to needle the people I don’t like and encourage the people I do like.”
When asked about finding humor in the fourth track, “Precious Little Miracles” (a song that asks kids to pull up their “britches”) Snider said that “laughing is fine with me… crying too.”
He said that while the song talks about today’s youth, it may have more to do with adults.
“I would say I may be a smidge saddened by the state of parenting in this country, but not the youth,” Snider said. “In fact, I came out in support of vandalism this year. I joined a group and everything. Spray painting the word “Metallica” on the side of Beaverton High School is still on my bucket list.”
Snider said he’s also “a huge fan of gangster rap, heavy metal, and anything else designed to bring pleasure to the children of shitty parents and step-parents.”
Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables ends with the song “Big Finish,” a paradox about getting older and worrying too much and then feeling older because of the stress associated with worry. It has the dual purpose of ending the album and highlighting the subject of death.
With so much music already under Snider’s belt and a nearly two-decade long tour around this country, the singer seems to be reaching a state of reflection. And while many artists desire to exit the stage before losing relevancy, Snider may be more in tune with that notion than most.
“Assessing the situation from here, I’d say there’s at least another few million miles to go, but alas… my knees are shot " Snider said.
So, answer the knock now, before Snider decides to stop rapping.
$28.25 at the towertheatre.org
The Tower Theater,835 NW Wall Street, Bend