Todd Snider never became a star as people predicted back in 1994, when he released his first album, hailed as a troubadour for the new generation. Truth is, he never came close to being close, derailed by one thing after another—especially drugs—even after Gary Allen and Garth Brooks covered his songs. But by some miracle, he’s still with us at 50, still brilliantly unpredictable, still sharp as a broken bottle.
For the past three years, he’s been the lead singer of Hard Working Americans, waxing loud and poetic alongside Jesse Aycock (Secret Sisters), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), and Duane Trucks (Widespread Panic). It’s a great combination, and after releasing a debut album of covers, they’ve become the perfect vehicle for Snider’s new songs, challenging him to write for a jam band that can follow his lead.
It’s not easy. The songs on Rest In Chaos are crazy as ever, with a sobering vision of life at the corner of Drunk and High. Like: “I met Melita in Arizona / at the clinic for alcoholics. She was doubled over the first time I saw her / and I could tell by the way she held back her hair / I knew right then and there / I just knew.” That’s how these songs roll, stumbling in the dark, as if the stories were spilling out and Snider was catching them before they hit the ground. But don’t be fooled: Beneath all that chaos, there’s a careful attention to craft, to the ongoing demands of 4/4, and to the importance of maintaining this partnership that’s bringing out the best in him.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.