Troubadour Todd Snider has his eye on the Raven Theater, where he'll perform on Oct. 13. (Photo by Stacie Huckeba)

Todd Snider is pretty much who, and what, he says he is: an alright guy. He’s a bit shaggy, his wardrobe does not appear well thought out, and for years he performed barefoot on stage, with his dog, Cowboy Jim, napping a few feet away. 

As he ran through his 15-20 song show, the dog would sometimes get up and wander around, go off stage to sleep it off. But Snider said he’d always come back for “Mr. Bojangles.” 

“Yeah, I sure miss him,” said Snider last week when we spoke with him from Nashville. Snider regularly performs the song, and recorded it for his Jerry Jeff Walker album, one of 19 he has recorded in his 28 year career. It’s not really clear if he’s talking about the songwriter, or the dog. Or both.

Now he has never really been a chart topper, but to a certain audience his songs are legendary: “Beer Run,” “Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues,” “Statistician’s Blues,” “Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males” and especially the one about that “Alright Guy.” ( 

“Just then a friend of mine came through the door
Said she’d never picked me for a scumbag before
Said she didn’t ever want to see me anymore
And I still don’t know why.

I think I’m an alright guy…
I really do! I’m alright!” 

Almost as well known are some of his tall tales, some of which make it into songs eventually, and the ones that don’t he delivers from the stage in an informal meandering style that lands with a laugh.

Not just a cosmic comic or prankster, Snider’s songwriting relies on humor to slip in the knife, and he’s a sharp wit. For instance, his “Talking Reality Television Blues” skewers TV, TV viewers, TV reality shows and reality show hosts and—you can see where this is going. It’s so dry and clever, it has a brilliant techno cover version by Tom Jones: (

His return this time, dubbed the American Troubadour Tour, is nearly 50 dates long, swinging from New England to cross the mountain states, down the West Coast, through the Heartland and Southeast to end in Texas. Of course. 

Healdsburg comes just after Arcata and before San Francisco. It’s a return to the Raven for him—he was here just a year ago, and his 2020 gig was canceled by, you guessed it, COVID. Unlike many artists of his ilk (though truthfully there aren’t a lot of artists of his ilk), he’s pretty familiar with Sonoma County. In fact, a case could be made that his musical career began here. 

After he graduated from Beaverton High in Oregon in 1985—where he  was on the football team, as he hilariously recounts in one of his tall tales—he enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College. He didn’t attend too many classes, he admitted, but fell in with a musical crowd.

“I met some Samoan kids, and they played guitar and harmonica. It was harder to learn to play the guitar, but they showed me a lot of playing harmonica is knowing which key to play. And so that was the beginning of learning harmonica. First you gotta know what key they’re playing the song, and then you gotta play cross or straight after that. It’s pretty simple.” Players know.

When his academic and athletic career crash-landed, his brother sent him a ticket to Austin, and when Snider arrived, he found his harmonica skills were not in high demand. “So I learned how to play guitar,” he said, picking his way into a musical trend of Americana (or “uncommercial country,” he calls it). “I learned that the difference between a free spirit and a freeloader was three chords.”

Touring comes naturally to Snider; he was 19 when he learned guitar and pretty much since then he has been playing somewhere. Rock stars have their favorite custom-made multi-thousand dollar guitars, but Snider’s a troubadour, so he has got a guitar in every town. “I leave them at people’s houses, so they’re there when I get there”—and if he’d have his druthers, life on the road would be his first choice.

But that life is not all fun and games. His alliance with an Americana “super group” (and one can only imagine what that means), the Hard Working Americans, ended when one of the band members committed suicide. Snider’s dog, Cowboy Jim, died. And his doctor told him he really should be wearing shoes.  

“I guess it’s disgusting, some people say. I never cared,” said Snider. It was one of several lifestyle changes that the self-described “lazy-ass hippie” went through in about 2015, when he left behind most of the painkillers and intoxicants—except weed. He told Rolling Stone in 2019 that he’d have a joint after AA meetings. “That’s all I do now. When I smoke weed, people act like I’m sober.” 

COVID-19 shut down his peregrination, but not his playing. Once a week, he’d leave his place east of Nashville and go to a rehearsal studio nearby to perform an informal show called the Get Together. “It had good cameras and lights and stuff, so we’d do just a set, I’d do like 70 minutes.” Tips were accepted on the YouTube page, and the Todd Snider Empire managed to stay afloat. “It was like busking online,” he said.

Needless to say, there are a lot of stories in those 70-minute episodes. And a handful of songs, too, from a variety of songwriters he admires—Jerry Jeff and John Prine, of course, and Guy Clark, Jim Croce, Justin Townes Earle, Robert Earl Keen, back to Woody Guthrie, artists armed with a guitar and an attitude who make it rhyme.  

The pandemic years were hard. He lost several of his friends and mentors, including Prine, to COVID in April, 2020 and Jerry Jeff to cancer in October of that same year. Their influence is self-evident in many of his songs, but there’s no denying that Snider’s original wit and craft comes through—honed by his 55 hard-lived years.

His newest release is, appropriately, “Live: Return of the Storyteller,” culled from over 75 concert dates last year. It includes his between-song tales and solo acoustic performances from old favorites to new, like the wistful elegy, “Sail On My Friend.”

The day after it was released, Snider played the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, sharing the bill with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, then he headed out for the road.

“Since the pandemic, I’ve performed almost every night. I live for it. It’s all I know.” 

Todd Snider plays Oct. 13 at the Raven Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. Ryan Montbleau is opening the show, who Snider said shares his enthusiasm for the Black Crowes. Tickets at

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