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Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan
CD Review by Clint Rock on 7/29/2009   

The Excitement Plan is the first full-length studio release from Oregon-born, East Nashville-based singer-songwriter Todd Snider since his critically-acclaimed The Devil You Know (2006). Produced by Don Was and released on Yep Roc Records, The Excitement Plan is a mature work from an artist finally getting widespread recognition fifteen years and a dozen albums into his career.

While Toddís songs have always possessed heart and humor, The Excitement Plan showcases his development as both poet and satirist. Armed with skillful turns of phrase, Snider wryly examines his personal life and the myriad faces of humanity through tales of downtrodden, sometimes seedy characters who often reflect the harsh realities of the American experience for the common man. Although the faces and names of the characters change throughout the twelve songs that constitute The Excitement Plan, Snider instills in each a sense of whimsical optimism. For example, in the first line of the bluesy opener, "Slim Chance," the narrator finds a four leaf clover missing one leaf and rationalizes that "four is really just one more than three."

Arguably, many of the albumís songs can be interpreted as autobiographical in nature. The overriding theme of The Excitement Plan seems to be Toddís examination of his own freewheeling spirit and a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit and love of music. In "Greencastle Blues," he poses as an aging vagabond who sits in a jail cell, reflects on the trouble heís caused for himself, and wonders, "How do you know when itís too late to learn?" Similar subjects are broached in Toddís charming cover of Robert Earl Keenís "Corpus Christi Bay" and in his own composition, "The Last Laugh."

The Excitement Plan is an album full of notable highlights, including "Americas Favorite Pastime," the true story of unlikely protagonist Dock Ellis, a former pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who, on June 12, 1970, pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres while under the influence of LSD. Other key tracks are "Bring ĎEm Home," a subliminal protest song, "Doll Face," a pro-environmental tune told from the perspective of a tree-turned-newspaper, and the back-to-back "Barefoot Champagne" and "Donít Tempt Me," two stories about suspected infidelity and temptation, the latter being a honky-tonkiní duet with country great Loretta Lynn.

Todd gives his own newfound stardom a sarcastic nod in "Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number Ten)," proclaiming, "A man once said that the pinnacle of success is when you finally lose interest in money, compliments, and publicity." Snider then goes on to say that he would need a lot more of each before heíd be willing to turn any one of the three aside. Todd closes the album with "Good Fortune," another fun, hopeful song, wherein he wishes for his listeners, in true hippie fashion, "Ömay some good fortune come to you."

Taken as a whole, Todd Sniderís latest collection of songs makes for a light, bluesy, and fun listening experience. That being said, Todd pulls no punches with any of the subject matter, including himself, which infuses the album with a confessional tone and personal nature. The Excitement Plan promises to be a high-watermark release in Todd Sniderís much-lauded catalog.

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