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Bob Snider – Caterwaul And Doggerel

I didn’t know Bob Snider’s music until my lovely wife introduced me to it. She’d been a fan for quite a while by that point, seeing him live in Toronto when she could (and of course she had his albums too). She took me to the Free Times Café on College one night to see him play and I was a convert, then and there.

There’s a simplicity to the way Snider sings and plays. It’s an honest, clear sound, and there’s a great deal of humour in there too. Most assuredly he’s a one-of-a-kind songwriter. He may not win any awards for his singing voice, but his songs are genuine, open, and insightful (even when they’re just for a laugh). He has the kind of infectious, playful soul to his music that reaches right out of the speakers and makes you pay complete attention while you tap your feet. Seeing him live was even better. He played one great song after another as though it weren’t a big deal, but I came away that night sure I’d seen something truly special.

From what I’ve heard and read he’s had quite a life, living part of the time on the street, and then at other times playing concert halls and having a big list of Canadian artists throw him a tribute concert. Dividing his time between Toronto and Halifax. Ashley MacIsaac playing one of his songs (What An Idiot He Is) on that album everybody had about ten years ago… And so on.

But I’m here to talk about this record. It’s awesome. On first listen, some people might write him off as a kooky-sounding folk singer, and he may be, but he’s so much more than that, too. Country, folk, rock and blues all appear in his sound, and while his way with words might make some of his lyrics clunky, more often they’re pure genius.

For me, If I Sang It Pretty may be the best song here. It’s beautiful, heart-rending and perhaps the perfect summation song for the ending of a relationship. I mean, we’ve all been there before, right? We know how it feels, and most songs on the subject may, if we’re lucky, say one thing of worth in the middle of a bunch of stuff that doesn’t quite apply to our own situation. But this song says it all, clearly and beautifully.

Parkette is a neat little rant about urbanization, Talk To Me Babe shuffles beautifully, What I Don’t Know (Is Hurting Me) is the prettiest song Hank Williams never wrote, What’s Up Doll? choogles with late-60’s Stones swagger, Darn Folksinger is a funny discourse on capitalism in music, Sittin’ In The Kitchen (my wife likes this one) is a cute and catchy tune, They Oughta Bottle Friday Night is great…

Look, they’re all brilliant. Really. Just go buy the CD already. And if you can catch his live show somewhere sometime, do it!

You can thank me later for the recommendation.

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