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Albums Of The Week: Todd Snider | First Agnostic Church Of Hope And Wonder

The East Side bulldog gets his funky freak on for this irreverently groover set.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: Todd Snider has described the First Agnostic Church of Hope And Wonder — the namesake for his remarkable 19th studio album — as a house of worship presided over by “a preacher who’s full of shit, and when everyone starts to realize it, he asks God to help and God does, proving once and for all that God is hilarious.” With this premise, the groundwork is laid for Todd’s one-of-a-kind writing style to thrive — irreverent humor, somehow seamlessly woven with intricate and poignant storytelling. In the case of the First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder (a concept derived from Todd’s Sunday livestreams throughout the pandemic), much of that profundity comes in the form of remembering friends and mentors lost too soon.

In the midst of the touching remembrances and off-the-wall character creation, Snider manages to explore a completely fresh slate of musical territory — working with Midland drummer Robbie Crowell and multi-instrumentalist Tchad Blake (who is perhaps best known as one of music’s leading engineers, but here plays piano, flute, tuba, guitar and much more) to capture the “fatback” rhythms made famous by the funk and reggae stars of the ’60s and ’70s. The sound, described as “funk in back and busking up front,” was driven by “something idiosyncratic, without any reference to other records … we were trying to get drum sounds and grooves that made their own kind of sense.” In that respect, it stands as singularly in the musical landscape as Snider himself.”