BOB SNIDER performing as part of Winterfolk at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Friday (January 31) at 7:30 pm, and at the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina) Saturday (February 1) at 11 pm. $15-$20 day pass/$35 weekend pass. 416-870-8000. Check www.winterfolk.com for complete schedule and details. Rating: NNNNN
In an age when eminem is the verbose poet of the underdog and we're fed psychic affirmation in the form of prefab pellets of Dr. Phil-osophy, is being a folksinger an anachronism?If you're familiar with street-singer-turned-stage-legendBob Sinder's low-key acoustic tunes, it won't surprise you that Snider fields the loaded query with characteristic bemusement.
"I've always liked that line "The theatre has been dying for five hundred years,'" drawls Snider .
"I think the same could be true of so-called folk music as well. There will always be people around writin' tunes and singin' 'em, and there will always be people to listen to 'em. Sure, we'll always be niche musicians, but our kinda people aren't after the big bucks or Vegas or something. It's difficult for people who try to start a folk club these days. The fans are wonderful, but there's only so many of them."
Paucity of folk fans? As he gets set to join this weekend's first Winterfolk fest (see sidebar this page), Snider's effusive about crowds 20,000 strong who turn out each summer for gatherings in Calgary, Edmonton and even the tiny town of Canso (the town of 800 hosts the annual Stan Rogers fest).
With that kind of interest, you wonder why the dude's former label dropped him after four years. After putting out a couple of indie tapes that won cult raves and hooking up with indie Peermusic, Snider was signed to EMI in 1995.
In spite of attention from local-scene stars like the Barenaked Ladies, who contributed tracks to 1996's all-Bob covers tribute disc, Poetreason, and Ashley MacIsaac, who covered Snider's What An Idiot He Is on his breakthrough record, Hi How Are You Today?, the singer-songwriter couldn't move enough units to please the powers that be.
He shrugs off the 1999 split.
"They came to the Free Times one night and said, "We give up! We're gonna hire you even though we know we're gonna lose money on you.' Sure enough, they lost money on me. Plus, I would drop out for six months of the year and go to Nova Scotia. They never said anything about it, but I don't suppose it impressed 'em too much. I give EMI full marks. Letting me go? I think nothing of that."
Lucky for his fans, roots-folk label Borealis called Snider up and offered to release a new album.
The result is last year's Stealin' Home, a disc of quirky, shambling musical stories featuring Snider's down-to-earth wordplay (check out lead track On A Night Like This), thoughtful production by Snider buddy David Baxter and a solid stable of respected Canuck musicians, from Bobby Wiseman to Hey Stella drummer Michele Josef.
Snider rifled through a number of potential names (including Swimmingly and the dorky Lots Of Bob) before settling on Stealin' Home.
"It's quite descriptive of what I do. I'm either stealing home to Nova Scotia or I'm stealing home to Toronto or I'm stealing home up a side street after a gig. Then I thought of the baseball connection, like getting away with something. I also like that. In the album cover picture, it looks like I could be keepin' my eye on home, just outta reach."email@example.com