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A Smart Blue-Collar Anthem

Like Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle before him, Todd Snider often writes songs with a slightly boozy country-rock swagger, paced by a steady intellectual metronome that's a tick or two ahead of most of his peers. Snider's new album, The Devil You Know, is among his smartest, as it riffs on some of America's major political fault lines.

Still, Snider remains at his most interesting when he's studying the hairline cracks: In "Looking for a Job," he sings, "If you don't wanna have to hang your own drywall / don't push me too far / Boomtown work ain't hard to come by / Boomtown workers are." On the surface, it sounds like Snider is merely crafting another blue-collar anthem, but he's also exploring the uncomfortable proximity of economic freedom and desperation in modern America.

Snider lives in east Nashville and works out of the same studio where Loretta Lynn recorded her Grammy-winning Van Lear Rose. Fans of inventive, eclectic roots music will hear a lot of that album's magic in Snider's latest.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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David Brown
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets. He is currently at work on Fire and Rain, a book that will track the lives and careers of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during the pivotal year of 1970.