Album Review: Todd Snider - Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables

Known as one of "Alt-Country" or "Americana"'s liberal troubadours (not unlike Kris Kristofferson), Todd Snider certainly isn't afraid to shake things up a bit. Read on to see how well he shakes things up on this, his latest album.

The album opens with “In The Beginning,” Snider’s evolution tale that explains the roots of religion. Snider frames the debate around the social order in the cave to demonstrate Marx’s theory of a class base for religion. “New York Banker” is the blistering and bitter ballad of a the destruction wrought by the title character. “Good things happen to bad people,” Snider sneers, unable to bend truth enough to create a morality tale. “West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown” opens with an almost orchestral waltz sweep, centered around Amanda Shire’s violin and haunting harmony vocals. The song is a sweet ballad about the fall of a former Nashville debutante. “Precious Little Memories” finds Todd Snider channeling his very best cranky old man as he jokingly rolls his eyes about the more spoiled-teenager aspects of current events. Snider then takes a break from his political side for the bitingly funny, kinda break up song “The Last Time.” “This is the last time, the very last time you’re gonna break my heart,” he insists, “unlike the last time, this is the last time.” “If I had a nickle for every dime that you have I’d have half your money,” he quips in “In Between Jobs.” The song is a bouncy, jokey answer to the Tea Party from the Occupy movement.

Snider takes a moment to pay tribute to his Rock and Roll roots on, ironically, the most country track on the album. “Brenda” is a touching song about the bonds between Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Snider sulks his way through another break down song, this one both more jangling and more contemplative. “I wish I could show you how you hurt me in a way that wouldn’t hurt you too,” he sighs before noting “They say that living well is the best revenge, bullshit, I say the best revenge is revenge.” “Digger Dave’s Crazy Woman Blues” is a rapid fire spoken word blues that just skirts the edges of rap. The melody takes a backseat, featuring just a few quiet layer, a gentle drum tap and Amanda Shire’s delicious fiddle. “The Big Finish” is just that, a searing blues rocker that features some amazing guitar licks and some of Snider’s best vocals. “You gotta admit, it ain’t despair that gets you, its the hope,” he bites, looking back at a series of regrets.

Todd Snider is Alt-county’s new liberal troubadour, and pretty much anyone who buys a Todd Snider album does so knowing full well what they will be getting. And, it would be a fair assessment that Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables is more of the same. (It would also be fair to say that Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables would be an accurate description of Snider’s career.) However, when the stuff is this good, more of the same is still more good music. While the album is not as song-for-song perfect as East Nashville Skyline, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables does make the listener laugh and think. In an election year when vitriol has already hit all time highs, laughing and thinking are a much needed break. It make not be his best album, but Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables is a much needed dose of humor and sanity for some crazy times.