Todd Snider “First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder”

Aimless Records, 2021

Humour and rancour manifest themselves in rhythmic grooves.

Snider’s nineteenth studio album’s title is derived from his weekly YouTube streams where he has delivered ‘sermons’ to his audience sharing his reflections and music. Adherents to his live performances will be familiar with Snider interspersing his songs with witty repartee; his live-streams have continued to entertain his audience in this way. The ‘Church of Hope and Wonder’ is run by a specious preacher who when he gets found out by his public looks for divine intervention to assist him with his predicament. Expect humour then on these tracks, but also serious points about politics, ecology and remembrances to departed friends.

Prior to recording, ‘First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder’, Snider was listening to the likes of Parliament and James Brown which will give you an idea of where we are heading when it comes to describing the sound of this album. Many of the tracks are rhythmic grooves upon which Snider rests his spoken/sung meditations with backing vocalists giving a collaborative feel to the manifested creativity.  Meanwhile, mixer/multi-instrumentalist, Tchad Blake, (prior collaborations include, Richard Thompson, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello), adds flavour to the at times sparse but effective arrangements.

‘Turn me Loose’ lays down the groove with a pulse of snare drum moving into a blues progression with spare acoustic guitar generating the spontaneous feel of a jam in someone’s kitchen. ‘That Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is a lament to the defilement of the natural environment through the accumulation of billions of tons of plastic delivered with a preacher like didacticism that seems appropriate to the subject matter. “Handsome John” sees  mellowing of tone with a heartfelt tribute to Snider’s friend and mentor John Prine, about whom he has said, “Nobody had ever been kinder to me, more vulnerable with me.” Also a tribute to a departed friend, ‘Sail on my Friend’ is dedicated to mandolinist and founding member of Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff Austin.

Within Snider’s, ‘First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder’ we have humour, rancour, and love. For some Americana faithfulls, an entry into this particular church may require a certain leap of faith away from expectations; take the leap and you could be surprised.

7/10
7/10
About Richard Phillips 42 Articles
From the leaden skies of Manchester to the sunny uplands of Cheshire, my quest is for authentic Americana. Love live music, my acoustic guitar and miss my baby (grand piano).

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