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Todd Snider’s Songline Leads Him Back Where It All Began

The title of Todd Snider’s latest release, Time As We Know It – The Songs Of Jerry Jeff Walker, comes from “David and Me,” a 1999 Jerry Jeff Walker song about two gypsy song-men sharing some wine, reminiscing back on the long road they’ve been down, and just letting the time go by. With a grin they wonder why – They say we all changed / But I feel the same and I know that you are. / They always said we played ’em much too long. / But tell me, what’s a song / Don’t it carry on and make the time go by? / Time as we know it.

Most Todd Snider fans have heard the story about how in 1985 his old buddy, Trogg, took him to the famous Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas where he saw Jerry Jeff Walker for the first time. It was an awakening experience for the nineteen year old Snider – that night he envisioned what he was destined to do. As Snider sometimes tells it at his shows, “We went down to see Jerry Jeff, and he came out, kinda like I am tonight, with just a guitar, and sang some songs, and I thought… Shit, I could do that.” Damn if he didn’t too. Snider started writing songs the very next day and never let up… except to occasionally stalk Jerry Jeff.

In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin describes songlines as: …the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known as “Dreaming-tracks” or “Songlines”. Snider’s songline may have begun that night in Gruene Hall.

A few short years later Todd got signed by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records. You probably already know this, but just in case you didn’t – In 1971 (about a month after Todd Snider’s fifth birthday) Jerry Jeff Walker led Jimmy Buffett to the promise-land known as Key West, Florida. If he hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t have been a “Margaritaville” let alone a Margaritaville Records. Talk about synchronicity! Seriously though, isn’t it intriguing how their paths have intertwined?

On April 24, Snider will share his love of the original Gonzo Gypsy with the release of Time as We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker. Produced by Don Was (yeah, that Don Was of Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stones fame), the 14-song set was recorded last year in Nashville with the Colorado-based Americana band Great American Taxi and features guest appearances from Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn, Elizabeth Cook and Amy LaVere. They recorded 30 additional tracks, so don’t be surprised if another collection is released someday.

The songs on Time as We Know It – which span most of Walker’s career – were done in that Snider stoner-gypsy fashion that has become a proudly-worn hat that his fans love so well. So well! So well! So well! (Sorry, I had to throw that in).

Anytime Todd Snider does a cover song, it’s rebuilt and painted a whole new color, and with this collection the undying impression that Walker made on Snider adds a lustrous final clear coat, giving them a gleam to rival Snider’s own infectious smile. It seems that these songs have personal meaning for Snider – evident by the subtle lyric tweaks here and there. One of the most touching is when he shows gratitude of his wife, Melita, in “Layin’ My Life on the Line.”  Even with that Snider touch, “Mr. Bojangles” still brought tears to my eyes… maybe more so.

Todd Snider’s songline has now brought him to a place of reflection and appreciation. On Time As We Know It he’s not just paying tribute to a man that inspired a 19 year old kid all those years ago; He’s honoring a man who has, over the years, become a dear close friend. A friend who holds mutual respect and admiration for him. A friend that he can share some wine with, reminisce about the old days, and just let the time go by. It doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe someday Todd will write a song called “Jerry Jeff and Me.”

 

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About Blake Phillips

I'm a long-time Parrothead (Jimmy Buffett fan), and back in 1994 Jimmy's record label released an album by a new singer-songwriter named Todd Snider. On first listen I was hooked. Snider is one the best storytellers I've ever heard. His music turned me on to other great singer-songwriters like: John Prine, Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Will Kimbrough. Then Will's music opened me up even more greats like: Rodney Crowell, Jeff Finlin, and Tommy Womack. It's a snowball ride that started with Buffett and is getting bigger and bigger.