The Excitement Plan Todd Snider
Dear Mr. B: I know you dont usually deal with sports-related issues in your advice column, but nonetheless I value your opinions greatly and would like to know how you feel about the use of performance-enhancing drugs (specifically, steroids) in professional baseball. Let me say in advance that I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom with the rest of us. You dont know how much your incredible insight has already changed my life.
With great respect,
Tagged Out in Toledo
Dear Tagged Out: Wow – I dont know much about this steroid thing youre talking about, but did you ever hear the story of Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates who pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD back in June of 1970? Thats right: it seems that ol Dock thought he had the day off when he dropped the acid, only to find out a little later (oops) that he was starting against the San Diego Padres in the first game of that evenings double-header. Things got a little weird, but the record book tells the tale: Pirates 2 Padres 0. You can look it up, Tagged, but the best account Ive come across of Docks big day is the song Americas Favorite Pastime on Todd Sniders new album The Excitement Plan. Backed by his own too-funky acoustic guitar (with nasty dobro by Greg Liesz and no-more-than-needed drums by Jim Keltner), Snider tells the tale – from Dock taking the mound as the ground turned into the icing on a birthday cake to the final batter and the one-for-the-record-books outcome. You know what I say, Tagged? Mandatory usage of LSD in pro baseball – then youd have something.
While were on the subject, Tagged, Id suggest you dont worry so much about baseball and go get yourself a copy of this Todd Snider album. You need to listen to it its important. As Tom Waits was to the Beats in the ’70s, Todd Snider is to the hippies in the ought-oughts: true to nature, but somehow just that much cooler and in a dimension thats just a bit beyond. And producer Don Was knew just how to capture the vibe of Sniders music on The Excitement Plan without taming it.
Making sense? Well, it will when you listen to songs like Greencastle Blues, whose chorus asks the question How do you know when its too late to learn? The opening verses sweet, sparse piano and wistful vocal might make you think of a young and slightly-stoned James Taylor but then theres that gonzo twist that is sheer Snider:
You know the number one symptom of heart disease
The number one symptom of heart disease is sudden death
Its like time stands still forever until it starts shaking around
Like some crazy ol hooker on meth
Brilliant analogy; vibrant images; but it sure aint no Sweet Baby James.
Great lyrics abound – from the dopey happy-go-lucky blues of Slim Chance:
I found a four-leaf clover in my yard today
It had one leaf missin off it
But thats okay
to the what-if-I-made-it-big dreams of Money, Compliments, Publicity:
Im broke as the Ten Commandments
And sometimes Im harder to follow.
The music itself is living-room simple acoustic guitars, piano, upright bass, drums, and harp as needed with occasional dashes of fiddle or steel guitar and recorded beautifully. And when Todd hugs up to ol Loretta Lynn for a romp through Dont Tempt Me you realize just how much the self-proclaimed Peace Queer and the Coal Miners Daughter have in common. This album is just too much fun and too much feelin and too much smilin and too much groovin Todd Sniders done gone and made his best album yet.
To get back to your original question, Tagged, I actually dont follow baseball. To be honest with you, I dont even own a TV. But I tell you what: if they make LSD mandatory in big-league baseball, Im going out to get me one of those big ol wide-screen suckers.
Glad I could help.
Your ol buddy,