Ed Snodderly & The Shoestring Seven – Chimney Smoke
Ed Snodderly & The Shoestring Seven – Chimney Smoke
Format: CD – Vinyl LP – Digital
Label: Majestic Records – Need To Know
Release date: July 21, 2023
Recalling the modern, esoteric lyricism of Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver and the Southern traditions of old-time music and bluegrass, veteran Americana singer-songwriter-guitar player Ed Snodderly’s new album ‘Chimney Smoke,’ (his 10th), is a hypnotic, slow-burning masterpiece of expert songcraft and storytelling.
Often wistful and nostalgic, with unforgettable characters, indelible memories and a sense of place at its heart, Chimney Smoke bears the marks of a pugilist’s nimble agility and endurance but occasionally also delivers a knockout blow or two. Case in point: ‘Gone With Gone and Long Time’, a dazzling meditation on the stages of grief. “It’s a song about loss as much as it is emphatic about dark,” Snodderly says of the track, which features harmony vocals from Hall of Fame songwriter Gretchen Peters. Aided throughout by “the Shoestring Seven,” a who’s-who of veteran musicians including Shawn Camp, Steve Conn, John Gardner, Steve Hinson, Gary J. Smith, Chris Scruggs and Kenny Vaughan, the album also features singers Amythyst Kiah, Maura O’Connell, Malcolm Holcombe and more.
Chimney Smoke had its origins in Snodderly’s desire not only to make the best record possible but in the concept of creating a quintessential “Southern” album, a chronicle of both his Appalachian roots and his own personal upbringing. The title track ‘Chimney Smoke’ offers a vivid depiction of Appalachian life, and is one of the prime examples of Snodderly’s gift for bringing memories and a deep sense of place to life with his intimate lyrics.
To help add masterful strokes of colour, shade and texture to an already vibrant narrative, Snodderly enlisted Grammy-nominated producer R.S. Field (Todd Snider, Shaver, Justin Townes Earle, Allison Moorer, etc.). Another of the notable participants in the recording of Chimney Smoke would also prove one of its most poignant, as the album was the final project completed by beloved Grammy-winning recording engineer and producer Bil VornDick, who passed away in July 2022.
Eddie Lynn Snodderly was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, to a father who was a Fuller Brush salesman and a mother who was, in his words, a “housewife extraordinaire.” Snodderly’s grandfather was a farmer and old-time fiddler, who, along with his brother, won several ribbons at Knoxville-area fiddlers’ conventions in the 1920s and ’30s. Snodderly started playing guitar at age 12, enamoured of the music of the British invasion, while also absorbing the old-time music played by family members that was simply part of the Snodderly’s homespun DNA.
In 1976, Snodderly co-founded (with friend Joe “Tank” Leach) the now-iconic music venue, the Down Home Coffeehouse and Pickin’ Parlor in Johnson City, TN.
Long known as The Down Home, it’s an intimate listening room that has played host to countless acts in bluegrass, folk, old-time and blues music. Recognized for its eclecticism by numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Down Home has also spotlighted everything from theatrical productions, poetry and story slams, to political rallies and funerals. “I don’t know if it’s ancestral or all these ghosts that are drifting around here in the mountains, but it’s a special place,” Snodderly says, which, like his music, has its deepest roots in his upbringing. “Since I was six years old I’ve always loved having a clubhouse, building them out in the woods in the middle of a pasture field with a couple of friends,” says Snodderly.
Snodderly would continue to mix his life as a traveling musician with running the club, always looking forward to getting back to the Down Home. Decades before the blending of numerous roots musical styles would give rise to the genre now known as Americana, a wide array of artists graced the Down Home stage, including New Grass Revival, Norman Blake, John Hartford, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Queen Ida, Koko Taylor, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Townes van Zandt, to name just a few. “It’s always been a juggling act for me between performing, writing and club-running, but I’ve been lucky, and doing it so long that it’s all a part of the act.” Snodderly would go on to immortalize the club in his song ‘Down Home,’ a spirited talking-blues track from his 2017 album, Record Shop.
Since his 1977 debut album, Sidewalk Shoes, Snodderly has released LPs on Sugar Hill and other prestigious roots-oriented labels. In addition to his solo work, he also recorded and performed as the Brother Boys with duet partner Eugene Wolf. Songs that he’s written have been covered by Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Missy Raines and others, and in 2000, he played a minor role (credited as “Village Idiot”) in the Coen Brothers’ film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The recipient of a 2020 lifetime achievement award from the Southern Region of Folk Alliance 2020 for his contributions to Southern folk music, Snodderly also has the third verse of his song, ‘The Diamond Stream’, permanently displayed on the Wall of Honor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Since 1992 he has been teaching songwriting classes in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program at East Tennessee State University, where one of his most high-profile students in recent years, Amythyst Kiah, made a lasting impression, leading to her remarkable vocal contributions to three cuts on the new album.
01. Better Just Ride the Mule
02. Gone With Gone and Long Time
03. Chimney Smoke
04. There You Are
06. Just Like You River
07. Jump Dance South
08. Crow’s Fever
90. Walking in the Sunshine Again
10. Before School
11. So Far Away
12. The Diamond Stream (Bonus Track)