New country album offers blues for the modern era

Nashville musician Todd Snider recorded his latest album, “Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3” at a cabin built by Johnny Cash in 1978. Photo courtesy of Stacie Huckeba

Quentin Rice, Staff Writer

Nashville country and blues musician Todd Snider’s new album “Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3” is a departure from the lively barn-burners he typically puts out. Recorded at the cabin Johnny Cash built in 1978, Snider’s new album plays like an “Unplugged” session, full of mellow acoustic guitar diddies and quaint harmonica embellishments.

Snider recorded the album largely without overdubs. He just sat in front of a microphone with a guitar and sang-spoke about a number topics — the relationship between technology and politics, roadies longing for the spotlight and even toxic, blind patriotism.

Many of the political tracks have a more liberal bend than most country music, such as on “Talking Reality Television Blues,” where Snider laments “reality killed by a reality star,” a not-so-subtle line directed at President Donald Trump. Snider said this dynamic doesn’t matter much to his audience.

“It doesn’t make people as mad as it seems like it might,” Snider said. “Every once in a while someone might get angry, but mostly people just want to tap their feet.”

The album’s delivery is unlike Snider’s previous releases, which featured more contemporary country elements and rock-inspired tunes. It harkens back to the nonchalant and conversational deliveries made famous by Delta blues musicians like Robert Johnson and Jesse Fuller.

Snider meditates on the cyclical nature of blues he contributes to on “The Blues on Banjo,” where he opens up with the famous blues opener — “I woke up this morning/ And I realized that I repeat myself/ I said I woke up this morning.”

Snider echoes many blues legends when he explains his relationship and draw to the genre.

“The kind of music that I play feels real natural. I’ve learned other types of music, and I can play them too,” Snider said. “But when it’s time to play and I’m drunk or whatever, there’s just a certain way I always play.”

On “Talking Reality Television Blues,” Snider explains the simplicity of blues writing in a rather tongue-in-cheek way.

“Talking blues are easy to do/ All you gotta rhyme is a line or two/ Rhyme a line or two and then/ You don’t ever have to rhyme again.”

Snarky humor is a recurring theme on this new record and is certainly a charming and relatable aspect.

This charm is perfected on the record’s closer, “A Timeless Response to Current Events,” wherein Snider foregoes singing to speak frankly about America’s deteriorating political landscape with a few specific jabs at Trump. The juxtaposition between the verses’ comically complicated alliterations and the simple, singsong choruses draw a number of somber smiles.

Snider responds to America’s mess of a political landscape with a simple phrase — “Ain’t that some bullshit?”

These tunes can be heard at The Beacon Theatre, where Snider will perform March 20 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are limited and priced around $60. Snider said he doesn’t plan to experiment with this type of mellow blues in the future, so this might be a rare opportunity.

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