Flying Cat Music is excited to launch its 2014 concert season with Ed Snodderly performing on Sunday, March 9, at the Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia. The show begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. with the door opening at 7:00. Admission is $17 at the door or $15 with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-688-9453.
Ed Snodderly is an acclaimed musician, songwriter, and actor from the mountains of east Tennessee. His most widely seen film role occurred in the movie phenomenon Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in which Ed played fiddle as the character of the “Village Idiot.” That may be where many fans first heard Ed Snodderly play–the soundtrack from that film won the 2002 Grammy for Album of the Year, but Ed is somewhat of an underground icon in roots country music circles in his own right. Among Ed’s proudest achievements was being honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum where a verse from his song “The Diamond Stream” is engraved on a wall.
With Ed Snodderly it’s hard to separate the man from the Appalachian country that he hails from and its rich music tradition. Raised in northeast Tennessee, Ed learned to play music by watching his fiddler grandfather, guitarist father and pedal-steel-playing uncle. When he isn’t writing and performing himself, you might find Ed teaching in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music program of East Tennessee State University’s Department of Appalachian Studies. Ed Snodderly is also the co-owner of one of the nation’s longest running “folk” music venues, the now legendary “Down Home” located in Johnson City, Tennessee, so his own roots in the region and its music run deep. The way he himself describes it, Ed Snodderly has been making “new hillbilly music” all of his life.
A review of Snodderly’s latest album, Little Egypt And Other Attractions, by Concert Window, does a nice job of describing what Ed’s “new hillbilly music” is all about: “While ‘folk’ doesn’t quite capture Snodderly’s essence—he is more like a singer-songwriter steeped in country and bluegrass—he is nevertheless finely tuned to the eccentricities of traditional music. At times he sounds like a countryfied Tom Waits, and at others he reaches back through the ages to channel his ancestors . . .”
Dobro master Jerry Douglas is a man who knows a fair bit about traditional mountain music. Douglas is with “Alison Krauss and Union Station” and has played on more than 1,600 albums in his career, including work with Ed Snodderly at Sugar Hill records. Jerry observes that Snodderly, “writes as though he lived ages ago, in a simpler time set with straight-ahead values. He’s carving himself a niche for his own genre of Appalachian music.”
Even that praise doesn’t do full justice to the high voltage spark that animates Ed Snodderly. His music can’t be confined to a single genre or tradition. Ed is a talented multi-instrumentalist, highly adept on the banjo, both the acoustic and electric guitar, and on the Dobro, too, as well as the fiddle. He needs all of that versatility to keep pace with a muse that has Ed on a constant journey.
Snodderly first attained a measure of roots prominence when he and Eugene Wolf merged their talents to become “The Brother Boys” in the late ‘80s. Together they recorded three now classic recordings on the Sugar Hill label, each a hybrid mix of varied roots styles. In an interview published in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, Snodderly was asked if “The Brother Boys” was a band ahead of its time. He replied in part, “During the ten main years that we played together, we couldn’t get a decent agent because no one knew what to do with us. Nobody could categorize it, because it wasn’t really bluegrass or country.”
Ed Snodderly solo isn’t really bluegrass or country either. The mood he conjures up on one song may have you thinking of Johnny Cash, to be followed by Bob Dylan on another. Mostly, though, there is no one else quite like Ed Snodderly. Ed is a good friend of Malcolm Holcombe, another iconic and poetic Appalachian musician who Flying Cat Music had the honor of hosting during our 2013 concert series. There must be something special in the water of those yonder hills.
“So take down your box and play the string,
Whisper up your own traveling tune,
Listen to the sound that the water makes,
The diamond stream, the diamond stream.”
The above lyrics, from Ed Snodderly’s song, “The Diamond Stream,” are engraved in the wall on the Hall of Honor at the Country Music Hall of Fame, celebrating America’s musical heritage.