Todd Snider’s East Nashville Revue
Black Mountain North Carolina
By Rob Dickens
This is a brilliantly simple concept. A group of musician friends who all live in hip East Nashville jump on a bus together and go on a tour, play some songs as separate performers and then all jam together as the finale.
Todd Snider is the ring-leader and his bussing friends are Elizabeth Cook, Kevin Gordon, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Rorey Carroll.
The place is the Pisgah Brewery in Black Mountain, which is about twenty minutes east of Asheville North Carolina. The setting is perfect – a large, impressive wood-framed stage in front of a delightfully grassed area, surrounded by a creek and lined with trees. The evening sun was saying farewell and it was going to be a wonderfully dry and balmy night.
Rorey Carroll is a confident, young singer-songwriter. At a very young age, she lived in her car in cities all around the county, hopped freight trains, she even hiked the entire Appalachian Trail at age 20. She made money playing music to anyone who would listen, from the subways of New York City to the streets of Ohio. Her debut album (recorded at Echo Studios) Love is an Outlaw will be released soon on Snider’s LoHi Records. I especially liked ‘I-42 Night Train’, ‘Baltimore Jack’ and the title track to the forthcoming album. A rising star I suspect.
Kevin Gordon is Louisiana-born, lived in East Nashville for the past twenty years and has four albums to his credit. I know his work on 2000’s Down To The Well best, a wonderful, moody collection of great songs.
The title track of that album was co-written by Colin Linden (Blackie and The Rodeo Kings) and is a duet with Lucinda Williams. The wonderful track was covered by the Hard Working Americans as well. It was just Gordon and a shimmering electric guitar this evening. As well as ‘Down To The Well’, he presented the strident boogie ‘Gto’ (from his new release Long Time Gone), ‘Burning The House Down’ and the remarkable rolling epic about his boyhood in Louisiana ‘Colfax (Step In Time)’. A great American songwriter.
Aaron Lee Tasjan has off-kilter folk songs riddled with a dry, sharp wit. From a self-released album to a signing with the New West label, he now has a forthcoming release Silver Tears. He cuts a commanding figure on stage with high vitality. He is also appearing at two festivals I’ll be attending over here in the next two weeks, so plenty of chance to catch him again.
Elizabeth Cook was joined on the stage by Dexter Green, seriously good on the electric guitar and producer of Cook’s new album Exodus of Venus. Her voice was a highlight as well as her lovable and sassy dialogue (which is a feature on her Outlaw Country radio show). Material from the new release included ‘Methadone Blues’ (a sequel to ‘Heroin Addict Sister’), ‘Broke Down In London on the M25’ and ‘Straight Jacket Love’, along with some older songs – the lively ‘El Camino’, ‘Just The Booty’ and the signature country tune with swagger “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman’.
The headliner Todd Snider I saw last year as front man for the Hard Working Americans. It was one of my favourite shows of the year. He was charismatic on stage, in the moment, passionate, jaunty, enjoying himself and being in such a classy outfit. Tonight, for now, it was just him and an acoustic guitar. My affection for his work has grown further as a result of his set tonight – such an easy rapport on stage, joking with the interjectors and song requests (most of which he accepted with grace and a memorable retort). He too has a new record coming out (doesn’t everyone it seems?!) Eastside Bulldogs.
The set list included the philosophical ‘Can’t Complain’, ‘Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males’, the playful ‘Tension’, a co-write with his old friend Will Kimborough that he hadn’t played for a long time ‘Horseshoe Lake’, the hunt for ‘D. B. Cooper’, ‘Double Wide Blues’, the hilarious ‘Alright Guy’, ‘Just Like Old Times’ and the life-affirming ‘Enjoy Yourself’. It was a long treat.
So, all the aforementioned folk came on next – now under the moniker of Elmore Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs. Buzz looks a LOT like Snider. So finished the night with everyone including Green and a couple of others not sighted before for a rockin’ and jammin’ bunch of dance tunes and sing-a-long songs – ‘Chicks ‘n Cars (And The Third World War)’ (Colin James), ‘Hanky Panky’ (Tommy James and the Shondells), ‘She’s About A Mover’ (Sir Douglas Quintet) and ’Louie Louie’ (The Kingsmen).
It was a joyous celebration with the warm and fun-loving tall tale-telling Snider at the helm. There is a special 50th birthday show at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in three weeks. That would be a blast to witness.
I’d like to be on Revue tour bus as well.