For those who made the scene during singer-songwriter Todd Snider's mid-'90s Memphis heyday, it won't take much convincing to get you to head out to the Lounge Friday, January 30th, to catch the now Nashville-based Snider's latest semiregular local appearance.
But for those who missed out, you might want to take a listen to Snider's most recent album, the charming live set Near Truths and Hotel Rooms, where his witty songs and warm audience rapport add up to a good time you'll want to have.
Snider, a one-time protégé of local songwriter Keith Sykes and who now records for John Prine's Oh Boy Records, can write delicate, reflective songs, but his strength is humor. And Near Truths and Hotel Rooms presents an equal-opportunity satirist, one equally adept at tweaking social conservatism ("Beer Run" is a priceless tale of "a couple of frat guys from Abilene" on their way to a Robert Earl Keen concert) and mocking left-of-center pretension (the dated but still effective semi-hit "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues"). Words to live by, from "Tension": "Republicans, that's what scares people nowadays that and, uh Democrats."
I must sound like a broken record recommending The Drive-By Truckers whenever they appear within this paper's circulation radius, which is fairly regularly. But since their local shows, rather mystifyingly, don't seem to ever sell out, I'm gonna stay on my soapbox. This hard-touring Alabama band might sound like a pure novelty act to those who have never heard them --like Southern Culture on the Skids or Insane Clown Posse -- but they're not. They're funny, to be sure, but funny like Randy Newman and Bob Dylan are funny. And they rock --like Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd used to rock. They also, however improbably, keep getting better. The band's most recent album, Decoration Day, tops the White Stripes' Elephant as the best trad-rock album of the past year. The Truckers boast not just one or two but now three brilliant songwriters: Southern-culture raconteur Patterson Hood, small-town-life poet Mike Cooley, and working-class balladeer Jason Isbell. And, for what it's worth, the band's last pass through town, at Newby's, climaxed with one of my favorite concert moments ever --when a 12-year-old girl named Audrey Brown ("the unsinkable Audrey Brown," one band member called her, and, as a publicist later told me, a member of the band's "street team") took the stage to sing Cooley's epic tale of small-town teen love "Zip City" as the band riffed gloriously behind her. The Drive-By Truckers will be at the Library in Oxford, Mississippi, Friday, January 30th. -- Chris Herrington