Picks and Pans Review: Happy to Be Here

updated 05/29/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/2000 01:00AM

Todd Snider (Oh Boy)

Album of the week

Music marketers will need to fashion a new pigeonhole for this bird of a decidedly different feather. A throwback to the days when young folkies like Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie sang with a twang in their voice, Snider is a singer-songwriter with an acute sense of humor and lament, who, like those 1960s-era troubadours, accompanies himself on guitar and blues harp. But it is his vivid songwriting that makes this Nashville cat one to watch. On "Forty Five Miles," Snider's lyrics stand out like the highway "flares burning out of the snow" he sings about. "Just in Case" is a modern fiancé's pitch for a prenup: "What's yours is yours/ And what is mine will always be mine." Gleefully mythologizing mysterious plane hijacker "D.B. Cooper," Snider recalls Woody Guthrie. And "Ballad of the Devil's Backbone Tavern," a hooting folk-swingalong tune, sounds like something from Woody's son Arlo. "What's Wrong with You" is a rocker you can imagine Jerry Lee Lewis belting out, and Snider leavens the earnest message of "Betty Was Black (and Willie Was White)" with Tom Petty's offhand drawl.

Bottom Line: Going his own witty way

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