Combining the essence of late comedian Bill Hicks, the back-alley X-ray vision of John Prine and the damaged-guru spirituality of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Todd Snider has carved himself a unique niche in Americana music through the force of his voice and his inventive commentaries on American life. Snider's skewed takes on everything from Madonna to Pearl Jam on Songs From the Daily Planet (1996) established him as one of the best satirists on the American musical landscape almost at the outset of his career, while subsequent releases like last year's The Excitement Plan are awaited by his cult of enthusiasts like rare lunar eclipses or the birth of a white elephant. Snider does make interesting, idiosyncratic albums, to be sure, but his live shows are where the slightly cracked troubadour truly lets his freak flag fly. He's even been known to walk out the door barefoot at the end of a show and traipse off down the street instead of pandering to his audience like a trained seal starved for fresh mullet. Of course, this potential train-wreck quality is a major part of Snider's rough-hewn appeal.
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