Todd Snider | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This Nashville singer-songwriter has come a long way since his half-assed satire "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues" fluked its way onto the radio in 1994. But he sounds a mite ambivalent about his progress on "Age Like Wine," the lead track from his latest, East Nashville Skyline (Oh Boy): "My new stuff is nothing like my old stuff was / And neither one is much compared to the show." He's partly right: onstage Snider's always leaned on rambling tall tales like "Beer Run" and "Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request," but historically he's had trouble distinguishing between serious and schmaltzy when far from the paying crowd. And so Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms was the best way to experience him in the comfort of your own home--until the new album. "The Ballad of the Kingsmen," a history of hysterical adult responses to popular culture, is his first yarn to fully balance humor with sober insight. It's tempting to credit Snider's increased emotional range to a recent overdose and subsequent rehab stint (especially considering his stark cover of Fred Eaglesmith's "Alcohol and Pills" here), but his increasing class solidarity with his neighbors on the wrong side of the Music City tracks may be even more important: on the breakneck "Incarcerated" a frazzled, fast-talking defendant closes his convoluted case by indignantly chanting "Nobody suffers like the poor people suffer," and on "Nashville" Snider celebrates the part of the music scene that doesn't make it to CMT. He opens for the Yonder Mountain String Band and Darol Anger's American Fiddle Ensemble. Friday 15, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $25, 18+. See also Saturday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Garland.

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