Todd Snider

Step Right Up (MCA)

On his second album, Step Right Up, Snider manages to cover as much ground as Beck.In the latter's line of work, though, it's known as "sampling"; among those of Snider's ilk it's usually called "ripping off." But he's no lightfinger. Snider can be as folky and pointed as Dylan, as anthemic as Springsteen and Neil Young, as outlaw as Steve Earle, Travis Tritt, and Hank Jr., (and more Nashville-minded than either Tim McGraw or whoever that Rhett Akins guy is), and as rock & roll as the Black Crowes, Uncle Tupelo, and the Stones themselves -- if he's a mind to. If he is, he squashes whatever Refreshments and Jayhawks are on the road. He can also be as earnest as Tom Petty on a bad day, wincingly witty like the Reverend Horton Heat, and as downright cloying and toss-your-locks-in-the-air as the Gin Blossoms. He's not shy about being an honorary Texan, either -- not that he should be, because he's good at it. He owes a certain debt to Austin's influence, but here again he shows off what he's best at: When he's getting as gone as Robert Earl Keen with his twister of a band the Nervous Wrecks, or is as wickedly precise as Alejandro Escovedo in some of his axework and riff-writing, Snider is just being himself. When you think about who's out there these days, that's way more than enough.
HHH -- Christopher Gray

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