Jon Snodgrass - Visitor's Band (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Jon Snodgrass

Visitor's Band (2009)

Suburban Home

Visitor's Band is the first real solo record from Jon Snodgrass, and it's about what one would expect from Snodgrass -- a near 50/50 mix of Armchair Martian-esque rock and Drag the River-centric country -- though in this case, predictability and enjoyability are not mutually exclusive.

Snodgrass recorded Visitor's Band in various sessions spread out all over the United States, with a little help from many of his friends in these locations (hence the title of the record). Fortunately for all of us, the sporadic nature of its conception doesn't make itself known in the finished product, thanks in large part to the constant that is Snodgrass himself and his deep, smoky voice.

The more rootsy material on this record is right up there with Snodgrass' finest work in Drag the River in terms of quality. The opening 1-2 punch of "Brave with Strangers" and "Thru the Fan" are both full of lush, layered acoustic and electric guitars. Minimal percussion in each song keeps the beat, so to speak, while Snodgrass croons smoothly and confidently. Things get a little more somber on "Song for Jake Nichols to Sing" and "Finally," but the end results are just as solid; the former contains more minimal percussion that rightfully stays in the background, while the latter relies on a low-end electric guitar riff for depth.

Showcasing his versatility as a performer for those who haven't been familiarized with the man's past projects, Snodgrass ups the tempo on "Remember My Name," a song recorded with labelmates Two Cow Garage that features weeping guitar solos, a healthy dose of organ and plenty of choice backup vocals, especially in the chorus. Same goes for the driving "Fast in Last" and the louder, faster "Not That Rad" which is, in fact, pretty rad. There's a tasteful amount of twang injected into each of the more rock-oriented songs as well, that while not seeming like a big deal on the surface, really helps this record stay cohesive.

Much like past Snodgrass-related releases, the final track on Visitor's Band is the entire record over again on one track with some alternate versions of the songs. But, if we're not counting that track, this record is a nice, succinct listen at 10 songs and 29 minutes and shows that while Armchair Martian and Drag the River lie in seemingly permanent states of minimal activity, dude can always ring up some friends, do this shit himself and have the finished product be up to par with everything else he's done. That, my friends, is talent.