To begin with, I should admit that I’m a big Todd Snider fan. I mean, he’s funny, his records are great, and he performs in his bare feet. And when he needs them, based on the photos in the booklet that came with the disc, he’s got a super sweet pair of Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star sneakers (low risers).
If he’s playing with The Nervous Wrecks, he’ll rock the house. But he’s equally good in folk singer mode – just a guitar and harmonica – telling stories, getting the crowd on his side (he always gets the crowd), and playing his awesome songs.
So a new Todd Snider album is a much looked forward to thing. The waiting is not the hardest part. No way the Tom Petty song was about waiting for a Todd Snider record. For one thing, the timing doesn’t work (Tom Petty released The Waiting in 1981). For another, Tom Petty is a sincere guy, and he’s not gonna write a slow chick song about sitting around, waiting for somebody’s record to be released. The whole thing just doesn’t make any sense. So let’s move on, ok? I mean, let it go, dude.
"The Devil You Know" is an excellent addition to the Todd Snider catalog. Partly because his last album – "East Nashville Skyline" – was one of his best, it would have been reasonable to expect this one to fall short of that standard. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, there is plenty to like about "The Devil You Know."
Clocking in at 39 minutes, and beginning with "If Tomorrow Never Comes," which features a toe-tapping, piano-driven arrangement, the eleven tracks fly right by, featuring mostly full band work ups (the title track stands out), and mixing in a few stripped-down numbers like you get at one his solo shows ("Carla"). Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack share lead guitar duties, and once again demonstrate that they are not afraid to play guitar.
Lyrically, these songs tell many stories. The characters have baggage. Happy endings are not always provided. Plus, you get Todd’s observations about stuff. For example, he’s not a fan of the President (trust me on this one), but he really appreciates rugby players (anyone can go to their parties). And while certain tunes reveal doubt on some big questions – “what does it all mean” questions – others clearly reflect Todd’s convictions. Among them, that it is important to be tolerant of differences and imperfections in others, not to mention your own self.
It’s exactly the kind of sentiment you want Todd Snider to be straight on. Whether the Chucks are on or off.