It would be easy to assume that using a well-known producer like Don Was was meant to bring about a slicker, more refined Todd Snider, one with some of the rough edges burnished off. But Was takes a different tack, capturing the loose, easy going feeling of a live show. It's a vibe that suits Snider's story-telling, troubadour style. The minimal instrumentation never gets in the way of lyrics that ruminate on an oddball collection of misfits and outcasts.
There are some slight songs here, like America's Favorite Pastime, the story of Dock Ellis throwing a no-hitter on LSD. But underneath the sometimes goofy surface of the characters, there's as much wisdom as wit, especially when Snider is examining his own place in the world. Greencastle Blues is his internal monologue about being old enough to know better, and getting caught anyway, which leaves him asking himself, "How do you know when it's too late to learn?" Money, Compliments and Publicity is a catchy look at what fame means to someone who has just a little of it, and could do with a little more.
To round out the almost-like-live experience, don't miss the liner notes, which skip printing the lyrics and instead offer a kind of between songs banter, telling the stories behind the story songs.