For singer, songwriter and master storyteller, a day on the road goes something like this:
“I wake up, get off the bus and walk around with my dog, usually on a street with a bunch of stores,” he says. “I’ll eventually meet someone, which will lead me to someplace else. I can’t do that as much — I used to do it at my own peril. People who follow me around now are a bit older and not looking to do drugs and gamble. Sometimes I would miss shows.”
Sinder’s rambling lifestyle, with rescue dog Cowboy Jim at his side, might be decidedly lower risk these days, but it’s no less full of adventure. His current trip will stop at the FM Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Tuesday, June 11, a makeup date for a show canceled due to illness last November.
Snider, whom we chatted with last year in advance of the rescheduled November concert, has since released “Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3,” his new studio album, recorded at the Cash Family Cabin, owned by Johnny Cash’s family, in Hendersonville, Tenn, where Snider moved after his divorce. He says he’s become “really connected” to the studio over the years; for the new record he even used some of Johnny Cash’s instruments.
Snider is a proud descendant in the American troubadour tradition, having admired everyone from folkie Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to comedian Richard Lewis, “a close friend and mentor.” Early in his career he befriended John Prine, who hired him as studio assistant and then as his opening act. He also linked up with Jerry Jeff Walker, the country singer known for writing “Mr. Bojangles.”
Prine “is just a really unique man,” says Snider. “He’s very gifted and I learned a lot from him, but you can only learn so much from him — it’s really like a basketball player learning from Michael Jordan.” Walker, he says, “has been like a dad to me. He even gets mad at me. Because in addition to being singers — Prine’s the same way — we’ve signed up for all the traveling and adventure. He puts a real premium on that. I admire him a lot.”
While mainstream country has taken a turn away from the troubadour tradition, rising artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson are helping keep it alive.
“I keep getting amazed,” says Snider. “Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, young people are not only doing it but I feel like they’re taking it somewhere.”
Since 2013, Snider has also been fronting Hard Working Americans, an all-star group featuring jam-band players Dave Schools and Duane Trucks, both of Widespread Panic, and Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Circles Around The Sun). The group has released two studio albums: “Hard Working Americans” (2014) and “Rest In Chaos” (2016).
“With Dave Schools, I feel like I’m learning stuff about music that other folk singers are not going to have access to, and learning stuff about concerts that I’d like to think are new, at least for me,” he says. “And traveling together, too. It feels like I’m always learning about music and songs, and that helps the songs that I’m putting out; they had a huge part in these tracks coming together. For a while it looked like [Hard Working Americans] might do them, but that would be more about record companies and stuff. That’s where it gets complicated.”
“I think there’s a real connection between rambling and jamming,” Snider continues. “Trey Anastasio and Richard Lewis are not totally doing a different thing.”