If you were to make a list of musicians who ought to write a book, Todd Snider's name would have to be near the top. This is, after all, the guy who spends so much time telling stories in his concerts that fans gleefully repeat the "I sometimes go on for as many as 18 minutes in between the songs" line with him. Now, Snider has written a book, appropriately titled "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales", and it manages to exceed the high expectations set for it.
If you've seen Todd Snider in concert or listened to any of his live albums, you already know about half of the stories in "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like." Fan favorites like Trogg, Large Marge, KK Rider, Moondawg, and Miss Virgie are all present and accounted for. With the extra pages, Snider re-tells the story of all those characters but gives each extra attention, bringing even more depth to the "mostly true" chronicle of oddballs Snider has spent his career weaving.
Where the book really shines, though, is in Snider's stories about the musicians and producers he's met during his career. He's always made it clear that Jerry Jeff Walker was his musical hero and the man who made him want to be a musician, so it's no surprise that Jerry Jeff gets a fairly hefty chunk of the early portion of the book dedicated to him. But when one of the chapters is named "Jerry Jeff Walker's Balls", it's a safe bet that this is hardly a fawning tribute so much as more of a hilarious recounting of shared exploits.
Unlike many memoirs, Snider has no room for hate in "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like." Everyone Snider mentions comes off very well. Some people are exactly what you expect them to be. John Prine is a zen-like master of the lyrical turn, who Snider says "sees a car wreck and immediately thinks it has too many verses." Jimmy Buffett comes off as a mix of the goofy beach bum of his on-stage persona and the shrewd businessman you know he has to be to have created the Margaritaville empire.
Snider's assessment of other people may surprise you. He spends most of a chapter talking about Garth Brooks, and Brooks couldn't pay an army of publicists to make him look any better than Snider does. The real insight in this chapter isn't the story of Garth Brooks being a nice guy, which is out there already for anyone who digs for it. It's Snider's cutting exploration of why people think Garth Brooks isn't a nice guy despite all evidence to the contrary. Lamenting America's need to tear down the successful is not a new concept, but in Snider's hands it is given its most compelling argument.
The one person who doesn't come off looking good at all in "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like" is Todd Snider. Snider has always had a bent toward self-deprecation in his shows, but the book takes that self-deprecation to a level that almost borders on self-mutilation. Snider has fallen into just about every trap a young musician could fall into throughout his career, from drug-fueled stage rants to believing his own press and ignoring good advice, to selling out friends on stage in the cause of a funny story.
Even at its bleakest moments, "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like" is entertaining. You can see how Snider has kept so many of his friends despite the many rotten things he speaks of doing to them in the book. Like many of the characters from his stories, Todd lives much of his life in a way that would be considered wrong in polite society. But there's an endearing charm that shines through it all that makes you just want to like Todd Snider. Besides, none of the fun people live in polite society anyway.
Whether you're a long-time fan of Todd Snider or a brand new listener, "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like" is worth the read. It's one of the most refreshing musical memoirs in years, striking just the right mix between humor and revelation.