Todd Snider

Todd Snider is on the happy back end of happy hour at a favorite East Nashville bar, talking about his new album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. "This record doesn't come from good times," Snider says. "I wanted to sound the way I feel, which sometimes means sounding like a broken soul."

On the 10 new songs, Snider doesn't talk around the vulnerable part, or the angry part, or the part about how everything we're taught about goodness and righteousness and capitalism, about God and family values winds up exploding into violence and chaos, wonder and longing. He might carry the mantle of "storyteller" – it's what he titled his live record, after all – but Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is anything but a nice, folk/Americana troubadour album.

It's not a nice anything.

It is jagged, leering, lurching and howling, and filled with unhappy endings both experienced and intimated: "It ain't the despair that gets you, it's the hope," he sings in the album-closer, "Big Finish." That Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is also roaringly funny is tribute to Snider's unique sensibilities, and to his standing as what Rolling Stone magazine calls "America's sharpest musical storyteller." Anguish without laughter is boring, like intensive care without morphine, and Snider has never been within 100 miles of boring. Also, he didn't earn the attention, friendship and fandom of American musical giants like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine by writing mopey protest songs.

Anyway, these aren't protest songs and they're not meant to incite class warfare (though he knows they might anyway). They're populated mostly by losers in the midst of losing, with a couple of spotlight appearances from the humbly anointed 1 percent. At album's outset ("In The Beginning"), Snider credits the church with sustaining peace by noting that "We still need religion to keep the poor from killing the rich." From there, it's on to the certainty of warped karma ("Good things happen to bad people," he sings in "New York Banker."), to a remarkable reworking of "West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown" (possibly the album's most acerbic song, and from the pen of Jimmy Buffett... no, really), and a slew of stories inspired by the world at large, writ small and barbed, in a manner both penetrating and empathetic. There's one happy love song, called "Brenda," about Snider's favorite couple, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

"I admire that relationship a lot," Snider says. "What Mick and Keith have is real, and it can't be touched and it can't be beat. I've never met them, but I believe in the Rolling Stones. That's who I think about at Christmas, anymore. They opened their hearts and gave us so much. And they tried to be true to each other."

Musically, Snider and co-producer Eric McConnell sought a sound that mirrored the times and that didn't replicate anything they'd done together on critically acclaimed works East Nashville Skyline, The Devil You Know or Peace Queer. With McConnell on bass and Snider playing guitar and harmonica, they gathered a core band of percussionist Paul Griffith, violinist/vocalist (and gifted songwriter) Amanda Shires, and keyboard player Chad Staehly, along with guest guitarist Jason Isbell and harmony vocalist Mick Utley, and offered up a sonic mission.

"I told them I wanted to make a mess," Snider says. "That was the goal."
And so a handful of accomplished musicians set about making a mess. And did so. Shires' violin is the call-and-response heroine to Snider's lyrics, filling the role Scarlett Rivera filled for Bob Dylan on Desire. Only messier. Meanwhile, Griffith makes like some off-kilter offspring of Keith Moon and Zigaboo Modeliste while Snider's guitar plays lead switchblade.

The result is something disconcerting, cracked and wholly original. It's something that stands apart from the music of Snider's heroes, and from Snider's own, much-celebrated past. Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is Snider's 12th album (14th, if we count a "best of" set and a collection of B-sides and demos), and it uses its predecessors not as a compass but as a trampoline. Snider found different song forms, different inspirations (from Alaska ne'er do well Digger Dave to Chicago Mayor, former White House Chief of Staff and friend..... no, really..... Rahm Emanuel) and different means of expression. He paints a world where begging turns to mugging, where investment turns to ruin, where babies grow into felons, where honesty is blunt trauma: "Wish I could show you how you hurt me in a way that wouldn't hurt you, too," he sings. And there's no way.

The Coal Men

Sometimes, the sum of something is much greater than it's parts….this is exceptionally true when it comes to Nashville-based band, The Coal Men, who are just getting ready to release their CD, Kids With Songs, on Funzalo Records. Now a road tested and more focused band, Kids With Songs is the product of 'divorce, death and broken bones' among other life changing events. This is an especially auspicious occasion, as this is also the tenth anniversary of the bands' formation. Funzalo is expecting nothing but success for this phenomenal trio.

Featuring lead singer/guitarist Dave Coleman, drummer Dave Ray, and bassist Hitch (short for Hitchcock), The Coal Men's music is rich, full of melody and hooks, and incredibly entertaining. Songs that tell stories, that convey pain, love, longing, hope and hopelessness. Behind those lyrics, music that is lush and beautiful. On Kids With Songs, the hardest job is to choose the best; songs like Never Again, Almost, Kids With Songs, Nightingale remain in your head for days, Possession is sexier than hell, and tunes like Houston Memory and Farther Find Me Now just tear at your heart.

We could go on and on about how amazing this band is, but let's be honest, you get hundreds of those bios. And you have ears – so you can listen to the CD and form your own opinions….so instead, here's some insight as to who the men that make up The Coal Men are:

Dave Coleman – lead vocals/guitar

Dave Coleman is the creative vision and the dreamer of the band. If Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Springsteen had a kid, that child would be Dave Coleman. A graduate of Belmont College who didn't start writing songs until his late teens, Dave is an avid songwriter with an incredibly rich voice. He has the ability to make you see the stories he's telling. Unusual for a guy who grew up shy and listening to bluegrass and traditional country and then went on to get hooked on 80's metal. Dave is a lover of good coffee (no Starbucks, thank you), a solid handyman, and not big on really hot weather. He's also lucky enough to be in a band where the talent level is equal, and talented enough to write songs that make people think, 'I know exactly what he means…..".

Food he resembles most: Parsley. Because it's the showman of the food world!

Jason "Hitch" Hitchcock – bass

Described by Dave Coleman as the "benchmark in his musical world", Hitch is the guy everyone wants in their band. Solid personally, and even more dependable as a bassist, Hitch is a comedian and a person who loves to build things with his hands. Having known Dave Coleman since he was four, they've shared everything from GI Joe's to the stage of the Ryman, and together since they were 12. A natural musician, Hitch has envisioned himself on stage since the age of 9. His bass lines are more like foundations than additions, and his playing brings to mind John Entwistle with a twang.

Food he resembles most: Rump roast or Boston butt. (That's what he says). We think potatoes, since they are good with any food, are loved by everyone, and can be enjoyed 1000's of ways.

Dave Ray – drums

Dave Ray is the go-to man in the band. Hitch's partner in comedy, Dave Ray has an eye for direction, is a homeowner, and likes to be in charge of things. He's been playing drums since before he was a teen, taking part in high school and college ensembles, as well as garage bands. A musician with an excellent ear, Dave often finds himself participating in the arrangements of songs as well laying down the beat. If he could, Dave would spend some time watching the birth of jazz in NYC, and probably taking part in it as well. Dependable and great at returning phone calls, Dave is the third long-lost brother in The Coal Men. His playing is energetic and stylistic, easily an equal part of each song.

Food he resembles most: Pizza. You never get tired of pizza. We also think it's because there are so many kinds of pizza, and there's many aspects to Dave Ray.

For more information, interviews, CD's, or just to shoot the shite, contact Jennifer Herold at 520-628-8655 or at

Some of what the critics are saying:
"The laid-back drawl of Coal Men lead singer Dave Coleman falls somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant and Alan Jackson. Bluesy Hammond organ and twangy, Allman Brothers-style electric guitar complete the Southern rock vibe on Beauty Is a Moment. Highlights include "Pretty Girls," in which a syncopated drum beat embellishes the chorus. "They can twist your arm, make you do what they want you to," Coleman sings, describing the cloud in front of the silver lining. "Outside Lookin' In" is another gem, this time on the poppier side, with a bouncing, harmony-laden chorus. Songs are mostly populated with thoughts on relationships and childhood memories, but scattered throughout these familiar themes are shimmering dewdrops of lyrical poetry. "Beauty is a moment, like youth it cannot last," Coleman sings in the title track, but it's moments like these that will make this beauty of an album last."
- Mare Wakefield

With the addition of Chris Frame (Son Volt) on guitar and Jen Gunderman (The Jayhawks) ..boards, The Coal Men have gone from trio to quintet and their second full-length release, Beauty Is A Moment, reflects creative growth that shows no sign of letting up. Composer and guitarist Dave Coleman – who wrote or cowrote most the disc's 12 cuts – is the force behind much of what puts The Coal Men into the first rank of roots rock/alt country music.

Coleman writes with the fearless emotional candor that marks the best of Alabama songwriter Will Kimbrough's work, and the band is just similar enough to the Jayhawks to invite favorable comparison. But despite Coleman's slight, dismissible vocal resemblance to an earthier more soulful Jackson Browne, The Coal Men don't really really sound like anyone else. Coleman's songs have the naturalness of good conversation and unfold with the same freshness. A laconic but literate and expressive lyricist who isn't afraid to let melody pull an equal share, he paints with fewer strokes than many, yet gets so much out of them. For him and the rest of the Coal Men, beauty is a moment – actually, a series of moments – and there are a wealth of fine ones ("Natural Wonder," "Cleveland Sky," " Louisiana ") here. Coleman and Frame's guitars, Dave Ray's deep-bucket Levon Helm-type drumming, the tight but unceremonious competence of the band, and the quality of the songs put the album outside of trends and vogue.

The next big thing always comes and goes, but everything about Beauty Is A Moment indicates a deservedly long and laudable musical life ahead for The Coal Men.

"The Coal Men are one of my favorite Nashville bands. Leader Dave Coleman writes brilliantly and sings with soulful conviction. The striking imagery is in the new album's title tune: lyrics equaled by its fuzz-tone undertow bass line, slashing electric guitars, pounding percussion and sizzling organ/piano work. These folks deserve stardom, people."
- Robert K. Oermann

"The Coal Men have risen from the ranks of Nashville up-and-comers to a spot as one of Music City's strongest, nerviest rock acts."
— Peter Cooper

"This young quartet's exhilarating mix of alt-country, roots-rock and pop might sound subversive in its stodgy Nashville, Tenn., hometown, but elsewhere its second album washes over the ears like a summer breeze. Featuring simple, sturdily built songs recorded on vintage gear in a mix that lets you hear the grain in the wood the instruments are made of, "Beauty Is a Moment" lives up to its title – and the Coal Men live up to their buzz."
- Kevin R. Convey

"Youthful cohorts The Coal Men lay down the roots with a tenacity that belies their tender years."
— Jack Silverman

"Nashville's The Coal Men serve up a huge slice of Americana pie with their second full-length release, "Beauty Is A Moment." Led by singer/guitarist Dave Coleman, this band manages to epitomize the best of Southern rock without sinking to a redneck stereotype. This is sophisticated rock-tinged pop with a genuine regional flavor."
- Rudy Panucci

"The Coal Men are a quadruple threat. They write great songs, their front-man is a phenomenal singer, they play the fire out of their instruments, and they produce everything with a radio friendly flair for detail."
— Billy Block



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Todd Snider with The Coal Men

Saturday, October 12 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Wooly's