Album: Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan (Aimless/Continental)

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The Independent Culture

The success of last year's Peace Queer has enabled Todd Snider to record this follow-up with a name producer – the esteemed Don Was – and a small but top-drawer session crew of drummer Jim Keltner and steel guitarist Greg Leisz.

The resulting polish, however, does little to shake the dust off Snider's laconic accounts of life on the underside of the American Dream, where folk are "as broke as the Ten Commandments" and take their blessings where they can find them, whether it's living on a rubbish tip in "Doll Face", or winning a lover's smile despite straitened circumstances in "Slim Chance": "I keep living in the lap of poverty/She makes me feel like I've won the lottery". Snider swaps his guitar for piano on "Greencastle Blues", playing in the abbreviated style of Randy Newman as he reflects on the indignity of getting busted in his 40s. "How do you know when it's too late to learn?" he wonders, supplying the answer himself in "Unorganized Crime", a song about an acquaintance so shady the police had "too many leads" to follow when he wound up murdered. For Snider, life is a coin-toss between hope and disillusion, with him always on the downside: "Every time I've tried to climb out of this wishing well, I only made it high enough to hurt when I fell".

Download this: 'Greencastle Blues', 'Money, Compliments, Publicity', 'Slim Chance', 'The Last Laugh'