For Todd Snider, Jerry Jeff Walker looms larger than a mere musical hero. When Snider first relocated to Austin in the early '90s, Walker was the first singer/songwriter that Snider witnessed in the city's club scene, showing Snider by example he didn't necessarily require a band to achieve his musical goals. Somewhere along the line, Snider even camped out on Walker's sofa for a few months. Given their longstanding professional and personal connection, there can be little doubt that "Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker," Snider's tribute to one of his oldest friends and most potent influences, is a labor of purest love.
True to Snider's patented style (and not far off the hippie slacker beam that Walker established over four decades ago), "Time As We Know It" is a shambling affair, recorded quickly with guests Kix Brooks, Elizabeth Cook and Amy LaVere, backing band Great American Taxi and veteran producer Don Was behind the glass.
After cranking out 30 or so JJW tracks, Snider winnowed the batch down to the 14 that appear, from high profile faves like Sangria Wine, Continuing Saga of the Classic Bummer, Pissin' in the Wind and the impossible-to-ignore Mr. Bojangles to lesser known catalog highlights like Jaded Lover and newer entries like Moon Child.
The only question that lingers in the wake of "Time As We Know It" is this; who is this album targeting? Tribute albums tend to use high profile talent to honor cultish artists (or vice versa) to expose one fan base to another, but because of the relationship between Snider and Walker, fans of either are likely to be fans of both. And their styles are so similar, Snider doesn't tweak his versions very much (outside of updating some lyrical references), so there's little novelty in hearing differences between the originals and the interpretations. And maybe we're thinking too much about this. Maybe Todd Snider just wanted to have a good time and decided to do an album's worth of good time songs, which is why Jerry Jeff Walker wrote them in the first place, and maybe that's reason enough for "Time As We Know It" to exist.