Merlin Snider
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Merlin Snider

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Folkworks.org - January 2009

Merlin Snider's first album Between came out in 1999 and to say the encore was a long time coming would be an understatement. Of course, to say it was well worth waiting for turns out to be belaboring the obvious. Right Here is captivating from the opening, picturesque, Central California love-song tour of Santa Cruz, to the thought-provoking hidden track No Advice at the baker's dozen point.

He has assembled an outstanding group of musicians, authored a tremendous collection of songs, engineered an ultimately pleasurable listening experience and produced an album that will be a "must-have" for connoisseurs of the singer-songwriter, folk genre.

It's really hard to pick favorites out of this work, and you will surely have your own, but I was particularly taken by the beautiful songs The First 25 Years and Ocean Song, the intriguing Yellow Moon, the real-life reminiscences stirred by Mama Don't Work Here and Tall Trees, and the always-needed but seldom-heeded counsel of No Advice.

Of special note is the very pretty Henrietta, the real-life, tragic story of Merlin's great aunt Anna who, after immigrating from Norway lost two daughters to illness, only to later lose two sons and her freedom to an alcoholic, abusive husband when he had her committed. Henrietta was her sister, Merlin's grandmother.

In a blessed alliance with Tom Corbett's mandolin, Mark Indictor's fiddle, Jack Joshua's upright bass and Deborah Snider's outstanding harmonies, Merlin's guitar work and smooth vocals find a happy place for serious music. Additional contributions by Chris Cairns, Eric Uglum, Larry Zack and several others make this a musical treat. I found myself thinking "there's not a note that isn't exactly where it should be."

And, as well as the CD was mastered you can hear every one of those notes, a real engineering accomplishment. I had the feeling I was sitting right in front of the musicians on every song. Merlin and Eric can be satisfied that the product was well worth the considerable effort.

If you can't make it to the CD Release Concert for this one, I strongly suggest that you see Merlin in person at the first opportunity and, if that's not real soon, get a copy from CDBaby.com or www.merlinsnider.com, where lyrics are available as well. - Carl Gage


Wildy's World - Friday, June 5, 2009

Merlin Snider is a craftsman. The California-based folk singer/songwriter has been compared to such musical luminaries as Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, Phil Ochs, Steve Goodman and John Prine. Making music at his own pace and in his own time, Snider follows up his 1999 debut, Between, with 2009's Right Here; infusing distinctive guitar work and minimalist approach into newly minted classic story songs that will have listeners on the edge of their seats.

Right Here opens with Santa Cruz, putting some of the western back into Country and Western. There's a real old time feel to this song that's part polish and part simplification. The First 25 Years is a classic story song about a man who descended into drink for the first twenty-five years of his marriage, only to be rescued by the love he so long neglected. Now the protagonist looks back laments all he has missed. Snider creates a character in song so real you expect to see him sitting next to you while you listen (ala Randy Newman). Insomnia is everything its name implies, discussing all the things that can get done in the middle of night, particularly catching up on those old Gilligan's Island reruns you missed out on.

Yellow Moon is strongly reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This dark country story song will stick with you in haunting fashion. Stuck In Ojai is a tragic comedy in song about how small town relationships can fall apart when one person moves to the big city and the other stays behind. The story here is humorous and well told (sung) in Snider's strong, clear country voice. Other highlights include Tall Trees, Molly's Got Her Red Dress On and Mama Don't Work Here.

Merlin Snider plays far enough out on the Country/Folk/Americana branch that commercial radio isn't likely to come calling soon, but he's about as fine a songwriter and story teller as you're likely to find. Right Here is a classic album; there are a few slow spots but on the whole there's little to dislike on Right Here. Make sure Merlin Snider makes it onto your "to listen to" list.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

- Wildy Haskell


Bard Chord - April 2009

Merlin Snider’s CD Release Concert on February 28, 2009, was an outstanding example of what can be accomplished with precise planning, hard work, and a team of terrific musicians having fun putting on the show.

It was a magical evening beginning, innovatively, with Robert Morgan’s poem, A Grain of Sound, segueing into a banjo piece from Chris Cairns, leading to a fiddle tune from Mark Indictor, another traditional piece from Mark Indictor with Tom Corbett on mandolin, followed by an original song from Tom Corbett, Something Bout the Blues, all providing an opening act from the band.

It’s hard to say what captured the magic from then on, whether it was Merlin’s songs (slice of life, thoughtful, and varied in mood), or the band’s powerful presentation. The energy grew as the evening progressed with a largely jazz, blues, swing style, touched by folk and rock on one or two songs. My favorites were Right Here in the Every Day and Ocean Song.

Adding to the charm were the harmonies provided by Deborah Snider, Mark Indictor, Randy Rivera, and Kara Snider; the keepers of the beat, Jack Joshua on double bass and Larry Zack on drums; Merlin’s hand at guitar and harmonica; and special appearances by Corey Gemme on cornet, and Klaus Ebert on electric guitar. I also enjoyed the printed program with background personal notes from band members and a tribute to all who helped make the evening a success.

Merlin’s last encore, We Are One, best captured the spirit of the evening. A group of musicians from as diverse backgrounds as folk, bluegrass and 20s/30s swing and jazz came together to create their own sound, and Merlin’s generous hints to the audience as to when to join in, provided an atmosphere of involvement for everyone at the concert. If you get a chance to see Merlin and his band perform around town, don’t miss it. It’s sure to be a good show, and you never know what he’ll pull out of the hat.

- Ann Howitt


Hi Merlin and Debbie: Really fine set last night. I know the audience enjoyed it and for once, I think you went through all the songs on your list! Music selection was great, instrumentals and vocals were well done - banter with the audience was super.
You've really hit your stride as an entertainer and want you to know you and Debbie + the Band of Pretty Good Acquaintances are appreciated here at Fireside! You'll always have a home at Fireside and look forward to having you once again in '10. - Bob Kroll, host and producer, Fireside Concerts


Merlin Snider does all the right things on stage. He not only sings and plays but he is the genuine article when it comes to wit, humor and being a sparkling personality. He wears no glitter, never bares his belly button and to tell the truth, his dancing needs work. In other words he delivers the real goods. He is a solid headline act and a delight to behold. - Bob Stane, producer, Coffee Gallery Backstage


Your timing, songs, and guitar are wonderful. Debbie and your band, wonderful. Your stories between songs are perfect. A good combination of stories, politics, spiritual messages and off the cuff remarks.... Most of all Merlin, your music is wonderful. It is wonderful musically, and the lyrics are powerful. Your have created a spiritually uplifting and freeing, truth-telling emotional experience for your audiences. - Terry Baily


Saw and heard you the first time this weekend at the Coffee Gallery. The performance raised echoes of Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Neil Young, and maybe Gordon Lightfoot or Steve Goodman, John Prine, ...the list goes on. I very much enjoyed the substance and style. Santa Cruz, Yellow Moon, This Old House... good stuff. Really good. I look forward to your next CD. - Don Gibbs


Discography

"Between" (Barking Dog Music, 1999)

"Right Here" (Barking Dog Music, 2009)

"Right Here" has received wide airplay on folk radio. Among Top Albums May 2009 on Folkradio.org.

Among "Rich's Picks," June 6, 2009, by Rich Warren, host of WFMT's The Midnight Special.

"Between" also received wide airplay. David Weide of KUNV listed the thought-provoking song, "Hello Jesus" among "Favorites of 2000."

["Right Here"] is a comfortable friend to have in my CD player,” wrote Steve Clarke, host, Acoustic Planet, Erin Radio, Ontario, Canada.

Songs from "Right Here" receiving the most airplay are, "Molly's Got Her Red Dress On," "Mama Don't Work Here," "Right Here in the Every Day," "Insomnia," "Santa Cruz," "Stuck in Ojai, and "Drink of You." Every song on the album has received airplay on FM radio.

Photos

Bio

Merlin Snider is a singer, songwriter, and acoustic guitar player in the Americana story-telling tradition. His music is an eclectic mix of folk-blues, western swing, alternative country and folk-rock.

Snider's newly released second album, "Right Here," is among the Top Folk Albums for 2009, as reported on Folkradio.org, the official site of FOLKDJ-L.

Folkworks,org offered this praise of "Right Here": "[Merlin] has assembled an outstanding group of musicians, authored a tremendous collection of songs, engineered an ultimately pleasurable listening experience and produced an album that will be a "must-have" for connoisseurs of the singer-songwriter, folk genre."

The Pasadena Weekly reported that Snider's debut album, "Between," "notable for its skillful guitar work and beautifully spare production has garnered both critical acclaim and radio airplay across the United States and Europe."

John McLaughlin from ESU Radio in PA said, “The writing is acute, the playing is sharp. [Between] is high quality across the board.”

David Weide, KUNV, Las Vegas, named Snider’s song, “Hello Jesus” among favorites of 2000.

Born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1953, the youngest of five sons, Merlin moved from the Midwest to Southern California with his family at an early age. His father, Allan G. Snider, was a Pentecostal preacher, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a homebuilder in his spare time. Merlin’s mother, Rhoda M. Snider, was an accomplished musician, skilled on piano, organ, and piano accordion. She led the church orchestra and choir and was intent on getting the hands of all five of her sons wrapped around one musical instrument or another at any early age.

Merlin started on the piano, repeatedly abandoning it for a basketball or football, then picked up the trumpet, and then in high school dropped that and all else for the acoustic guitar and harmonica. He began writing songs as soon as he knew three chords.

Snider’s early music was rooted in the church. Later it grew into the world beyond, venturing into broader themes both earthy and universally spiritual.

While continuing to write, perform, and record demos, Merlin raised three children with his wife Deborah, earning money as a painter, carpenter, cabinet maker, teacher, and free lance journalist.

Along the way he earned a BA in Religious Studies from Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, California; an MA in theology from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California; and a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, (1988). His dissertation was titled, Morals and Irreligion: Kurt Vonnegut as Social Ethicist.

All this education reflected the artist’s interest in values in society and, Snider stubbornly believes, has made him a better songwriter. In the middle of it all Merlin wrote his talking blues, “Learn, Learn, Learn,” a satiric take on higher education that won honorable mention in the American Songwriting Festival.

The release of Merlin’s 1999 debut album, Between, uncorked on the wider world Snider’s singular writing style, including distinctive melodies and chord arrangements, wry and evocative story-telling, and what the Ventura County Star called “a good amount of wicked humor.”

Folk Roots magazine wrote, “In a world filled with vanity releases of the solo, self-financed variety, it’s a relief to stumble across a songwriter that is a little contrary to ordinary,” and noted songs that provide “evidence of a thoughtful mind at work.”

Now, after an interim of nine years, Merlin’s second album has just been released.

Says Stephen Jay, Peabody award-winning composer and long time bassist for Weird Al Yankovic, "Right Here" has "Amazing arrangements, I love it. The record bleeds love. The cover reflects a simple and deep sensibility that serves the album well. A great album and a beautiful gift from you to the world."

Merlin resides in Ventura County, California with his wife Deborah Snider in one of the houses they built while he was avoiding the recording studio.

When not appearing solo, Merlin performs in various configurations of his band of Pretty Good Acquaintances:
Tom Corbett, mandolin (John McEuen's String Wizards, Robin and Linda Williams, Acousticats, Tom Corbett Band)
Mark Indictor, fiddle (Border Radio, Hot Lips and Fingertips, Dallas Hodge, Teresa Russell & Acadiana)
Larry Zack, drums (Jackson Browne, Joan Armatrading, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, Hot Lips and Fingertips)
Jack Joshua, upright bass (Mary Murphy, The Tatters, Rincon Ramblers, Cyrus Clarke)
Deborah Snider, backup vocals (Girls Night Out)