Ed Snodderly: Brier Visions

Majestic Records MAJ244

Ed Snodderly: vocals, guitar, banjo, lap steel; Missy Raines: bass; Gary Smith: bass; Taro Inove: mandolin; Gary Davis: piano; Gaines Snodderly: drums; with The Reeltime Travelers--Heidi Andrade: fiddle; Thomas Sneed: mandolin; Martha Scanlan: guitar, vocal; Roy Andrade: banjo; Brandon Story: bass

Brier Visions, Basket of Singing Birds, Magnolia, Working in the New Mine, Mamas Done, Farther Than Your Eyes Can See, Crying Boy, Second Story, Could She Be, Dog Gone, Deep Down Here

This is a terrific record that walks the fault line between singer/songwriter and contemporary old-time music.  All the songs are written by Ed Snodderly, well travelled Johnson City songwriter and brief member of the "Village Idiot String Band" made famous by the Cohen Brothers in the last scene of their infamous movie, Oh Brother.  It reminds me of a ride down the south rim of the Grand Canyon--each stop a new vista, each fairly different from the last, so you have to keep saying to yourself, "but this is all the same deal, the same thing."  The same CD.  I like the variety.

As far as hard core old-time folks go, I partcularly recommend the cuts which include the Reeltime Travelers: "Working in the New Mine," "Farther Than Your Eyes Can See," and "Dog Gone," together with "Crying Boy," a vocal and banjo duet set in the night space of a daddy and his crying infant, a space which exists out of time in the intimacy of the human condition, and "Basket of Singing Birds," which has the sensibility somehow of a Chinese painting of mountains from the 12th Century, except somehow they're the Appalachians. "Mama's Done" is another vocal and banjo solo with ancient eyes.  But even if you come to this CD with your head in a hardcore old-time place, I think you'll be totally captured by Ed's poetry and the gorgeously well recorded voices and instruments (Keith Smith of EKS Sound, Johnson City) and will forget exactly where you came in and just enjoy the trip.

The radio cut is probably "Working in the New Mine."  I heard it on the radio last January while I was driving down I-81 between Johnson City and Wytheville, VA.  Didn't get who was singing it at the time, so it was a great surprise to find it's on here.  The "new mine" is modern work, all in the fingertips on the keyboard yet with that same driven day after day to it, same as it ever was to quote Mr. Byrne.  The song is driving, with great harmony singing by Martha Scanlan of the Travelers, and the big band sound of that whole band, and it has a great unexpected (and very un-o.t.) modulation thru a couple of keys in the chorus which serves to emphasize the desperation work sometimes generates in spirits created to be free.

If I was a DJ I'd also put a lot of wear on the virtual grooves of "Dog Gone."  With a melancholy done that again head slap--"this old horse ain't goin' home, doggone!"  the song might serve as a commentary on our late great second unelection.  "Dog Gone how one horse can get a fellow so far off course."  Ed writes with a fine ear for the casual spoken phrase and brings depth to the apparently mundane.  Although there is a hint of Dylan and Van Zant here and there in the roots of these brier vines, Ed's vision is laced with mercy and love throughout.  I keep enjoying this CD, listen after listen.
--Bill Hicks

To Order: PO Box 466, Mountain Home, TN 37684 or EdSnodderly.com

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March 6, 2005